With her Halloween due date approaching, Rachel Howe knows her heart and home will readily welcome her fourth child. She also cherishes having acquaintances who will laud the birth as yet another means to foster communal camaraderie. As members of the South Philly Parents Resource Center, they have devoted the last 16 months to offering online resources, support groups and workshops as confidence boosters to those with young children.
“We have sought to create a strong sense of unity,” Howe, the president of the soon-to-be nonprofit, said Tuesday of desiring to have peers give books some competition for advice on how to manage one’s parental roles. “With the bonds we’ve developed so far, we feel almost like a civic association.”
The resident of the 900 block of Tasker Street began the center through her participation in the Kids South of Washington Google group. Reaching 500 members daily, the latter promotes fellowship through an assortment of aids, including an expansive activities list. While Howe has enjoyed its accessibility, she felt even more outreach and programming could further perceptions of South Philly as an attractive, welcoming place for families to visit or call home. A Kids South of Washington post helped the East Passyunk Crossing inhabitant to land interested parties, and operations began in April 2011 with a couples activity touching on retaining balance in one’s life once parenthood commences.
“We are not necessarily trying to say people should do things particular ways,” Howe, who, along with husband Larry, is rearing Marley, 15; Dylan, 5; and Joey Rose, 2. “We just want people to network and never find their new identity overwhelming.”
Nearly 400 local households with diverse cultural and socioeconomic compositions have aligned themselves with the center’s mission to give parents options when pondering childbirth, childcare and education, both their own and their youngsters’ imminent schooling. With her social work background, Amanda Kimmel found the idea of facilitating groups irresistible and led the first new moms meetings in the spring of ’11 shortly after she and husband Bill Cohen welcomed their son Milo.
“I really enjoy helping others to situate themselves in the parenting community,” Kimmel, the center secretary and resident of the 800 block of Cantrell Street, said.
Her six-week session occurred at Columbus Square Recreation Center, 1300 S. 12th St., which has come to serve as the hub for additional activities, including subsequent matriarchal interaction such as a Working Moms congregation and a Moms of Two gathering.
“We always discuss issues that matter most and essentially see everyone as a teacher and a student,” Kimmel said.
Howe noted at least seven mother groups have assisted fertile females but stressed parents remain the center’s focus.
“We’d be guilty of a misnomer otherwise,” she said with a laugh.
Male participation has increased, with fathers constituting a sizable portion of the center’s adherents and Facebook group members. As many run their own businesses and follow flexible schedules, they often seek additional ways to better their approach to adoring their offspring and fraternizing with their peers. Such a hankering for immersion compelled Brian Savage to help to organize Aug. 9’s movie night.
“The members want the responsibility of sharing what they have,” the husband to Catharine and sire of three children said. “It could be something as simple as giving a tip on a pediatrician or as intricate as discussing education.”
Like his center colleagues, the resident of the 1200 block of Titan Street has tackled that larger matter with gusto, as the natural flow of time soon will find his kin and theirs continuing or beginning their scholarly days.
“The center’s whole aim is to help the neighborhood and that includes its education system,” he said. “It takes a bunch of voices to determine what will work best for each household depending on its needs.”
Though it gladly embraces differences, the center attracted Jessica Noel because of powerful similarities she noticed among its constituents. The Texas native settled in South Philly four years ago and resides on the 200 block of Manton Street with husband John Noel and 2-year-old son Singer.
“Among Rachel, [vice president] Samantha [Slade], [list moderator] Tammy [Bradshaw] and others, I have found many like-minded figures who believe, among other things, in cloth diapering and nursing their babies,” the Pennsport dweller, who learned of the center four months after delivering Singer, said. “I find it really cool that Rachel has done so much to broaden the understanding of what is out there for expecting or current parents. Having the information would have made a huge difference when I was pregnant.”
That Noel touched on timeliness in her estimation dovetails perfectly with the center’s most recent push to incorporate and spread its message that parenting is far more rewarding than daunting and much more empowering when discussed with contemporaries.
“We’re eager to meet more people who covet knowledge and who realize strong communities depend on the exchange of ideas,” Howe said.
In addition to the assorted mother assemblages, including a Working Moms Book Group, she and her allies have also recently facilitated a toddler nutrition workshop and Aug. 16’s Dads’ Night Out. Their desire for inclusivity will likely thrive in the fall, as they are planning outreach to single mothers and same-sex partners and are hoping to construct a babywearing workshop, a car seat safety tutorial and a bilingual playdate to inform Spanish speakers of means to better knowledge of the vast amount of amenities in South Philly and beyond. They are using an aggressive fundraising campaign, which received boosts through the movie night and pizza celebration and July 25’s event at Rita’s Water Ice, 1356 E. Passyunk Ave., to accumulate more outlets for outreach, all in the name of building their tiny yet notable universe of committed caregivers.
“As parents, we accumulate so many responsibilities, so the center provides a great place to turn for meeting people,” Noel said.
With her latest bundle of joy scheduled to arrive in two months, Howe knows the addition will receive ample love.
“We are a great mixture of voices,” she said. “We are granola with a bit of an edge.”
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at email@example.com or ext. 124.