Unity In The Community, a local non-profit organization, showered those in need with donations.
Close to a decade ago, West Passyunk resident Anton Moore was sitting in his mother’s kitchen thinking of ways he could help his friends in need during the holiday season.
The simple gesture eventually led to an annual abundance of warmth radiating throughout South Philadelphia.
On Dec. 23, Unity In The Community, a local nonprofit organization striving to bring both resources and peace to neighborhoods, hosted its annual Operation Holiday Help initiative — a massive giveaway that surprises a handful of South Philly families with a scope of donations.
Each year, close to 40 people convene at 20th and Snyder, including a special appearance from Santa Claus, before traversing around South Philly delivering offerings to the families.
“I remember being in school, and I had friends who I would talk about Christmas, you could tell they didn’t have a Christmas,” said Moore, president and founder of Unity in the Community and leader of the 48th Ward. “I said to myself, ‘You know what?’ One day, I wanted to start helping families in the neighborhood, show up to their door and surprise them on Christmas, and we started that.”
Kicking off each year around Thanksgiving, the operation draws together a dozen local organizations, companies and residents to help collect goods for folks in need.
In November, the process begins when Unity in the Community starts soliciting for family nominations on its social media pages. Moore says this year the organization received more than 40 candidates.
Based upon certain qualifications, including low-income status or recent tragedies, 15 families were ultimately chosen.
While 10 of them were not disclosed publically, on the day of the giveaway, five were completely surprised with gifts — whether at their doorsteps, churches and even in a local Chilli’s where South Philly resident Ralisha Fleming and her children were showered with food, bikes, gift cards and even an iPhone.
“I was surprised,” Fleming said. “They came through the doors with a whole community to help us out. It was very overwhelming and exciting at the same time. It was so joyful.”
This year’s contributions came from a number of organizations, businesses and officials, including LJinaels Closet, D Bell & Associates, Keystone First, Cricket, Influencing Action
state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, Operating Officer of the 76'ers Lara Price, Daily Dove Care, Mothers Bonded by Grief, Epic Jr. Stakeholders, Don’t Shoot, Millennials in Action, Universal Companies, Waters Memorial AME Church, Five Below and Chantel Price Dance Studio.
Moore says about $1,200 was donated from online contributions, along with a number of items, such as bikes, gift cards and cell phones.
“The more we get, the more we’re able to give to the families,” he said. “There’s so many people going through so many things.”
Along with individuals from lower-income communities, recipients included those who recently lost loved ones or have family members living with severe illnesses.
For Moore and his team, this annual act of altruism spills past the holiday season, as Unity In The Community works year-round to support locals, especially the youth of South Philly.
“They are wonderful people,” Fleming said. “I’ve watched the families be surprised by them as well, just not knowing I’d be one of those families one year. It was a beautiful sight to be one of those families.”
Their work includes hosting peace-promotion activities, helping students with college finances and assisting people with housing and employment, to name a few.
And many of these candidates were found through Operation Holiday Help.
“You know what’s special? It’s not a one-off. We build personal relationships with these families throughout the years….The impact is beautiful, because you teach people to give,” Moore said. “You teach people to love. You teach people to be vigilant by the people that’s around them by what they’re going through. And, I think what’s special about this is that we keep it in South Philadelphia, and it goes to show there are some good people in this world.”