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Briefs: August 2, 2022

AARP ending tutoring program

The AARP Foundation will be closing four Experience Corps branches, including the one in Philadelphia.

The volunteer program trains people 50 and older to help students become better readers by the end of third grade by building their fluency, accuracy and comprehension skills.

The tutoring is done one on one or in small groups, twice a week for 30 minutes each session.

Emily Allen, Senior Vice President of Programs at AARP Foundation, said, “To reach more schools and students, we are evolving AARP Foundation Experience Corps to implement our work through community-based organizations, building on an existing model we’ve accomplished with 19 Program Partners in 11 states. After careful evaluation, we’ve determined this is the most effective way to increase our impact for both students and volunteers. In this move, AARP Foundation will close four Experience Corps Branches currently staffed by AARP Foundation employees, including Philadelphia, at the end of this program year. We are working to identify Program Partners in Philadelphia to implement our new business model as soon as possible so we can continue serving students in the city.”

Comcast aiding businesses owned by minorities, women

Comcast announced it will award an additional $1 million in total grants to more than 100 Philadelphia small businesses owned by women and “people of color,” as well as technology and marketing resources through Comcast RISE. This is in addition to $1 million in grants that were awarded to 100 small businesses located in Philadelphia or Chester in 2021, and part of more than 700 total entrepreneurs in Philadelphia – 9,500 nationwide – who have been awarded service packages to date.

Comcast RISE and the Comcast RISE Investment Fund initially launched in 2020 as a response to help minority small business owners who Comcast insists were hardest hit by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In November 2021, Comcast announced a major expansion to eligibility, enabling all women-owned small businesses nationwide to apply. This expansion aims to help address what Comcast claims are the “persistent inequities” women continue to face in accessing the resources and funding that are critical to success.

“As we continue to rebuild from the effects of the pandemic, small businesses still need our support. They are the backbone of our local communities, and we must take every opportunity to help them not only survive, but to thrive,” said Dennis Mathew, Comcast Regional Senior Vice President. “When we launched Comcast RISE in 2020, we knew a profound need existed in the communities we serve. Two and a half years later, we have seen firsthand how the resources from Comcast RISE benefit small businesses.”

To date, Comcast RISE has awarded more than $16 million in grants and $75 million in in-kind support for marketing and technology services, impacting entrepreneurs in 704 cities across 37 states. By the end of 2022, 13,000 businesses across the country are expected to benefit from the Comcast RISE initiative, either through the grant program or from the resources provided through Effectv, the advertising division of Comcast Cable, and Comcast Business. Comcast invests in and partners with organizations such as Ureeka to provide ongoing mentorship and resources to help small businesses succeed over the long term.

Comcast RISE stands for Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment and is part of Project UP, the company’s initiative to advance “digital equity” and help build a future of unlimited possibilities.

More information and the applications to apply for either the grant program or marketing and technology services are available at www.ComcastRISE.com.

Giant outdoor sculpture at Jewish museum

The newly named and reopened Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, at 5th and Market streets on Independence Mall, is displaying the OY/YO sculpture on its grounds.

The outdoor installation is by Brooklyn-based artist Deborah Kass and will be on display until at least May 2023.

The bright yellow aluminum statue is creative word play using just two letters, with several meanings. One side says “YO,” referencing the phrase used throughout Philadelphia, while the other side reads “OY,” a popular Yiddish phrase used in Jewish and American culture.

At 8 feet tall, 16 feet wide and 5-feet deep, the statue is intended to become part of Old City’s cultural fabric and a destination for tourists and locals.

The museum is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Scanlon announces $267.8 million to support Pennsylvania small businesses

Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon announced that Pennsylvania has been awarded $267.8 million in American Rescue Plan funding through the State Small Business Credit Initiative to support small businesses and underserved entrepreneurs as they emerge from the pandemic and spur economic growth across the state.

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act, providing $10 billion to fund the State Small Business Credit Initiative, which was originally established in 2010 and has been highly successful in increasing access to capital for traditionally underserved small businesses and entrepreneurs. The new SSBCI funding is expected to catalyze up to $10 of private investment for every $1 of SSBCI capital funding, amplifying the effects and creating sustainable growth.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of Pennsylvania’s economy – creating jobs and making our communities vibrant,” said Scanlon. “But they’re still hurting from the pandemic and need our support as they recover. I’m pleased to share that thanks to the American Rescue Plan, $267.8 million is headed to Pennsylvania to empower our small business owners with the capital they need to thrive and promote growth across the commonwealth. I’m proud to have cast my vote for the historic funding that the American Rescue Plan continues to deliver to our region and will continue doing everything I can to secure support for the small businesses that drive our economy.”

The program is administered at the federal level by the Department of the Treasury. The state Department of Community and Economic Development will distribute the new funds to eligible economic development partners, who will then administer the funding to qualifying businesses in the form of equity investments and loans. 

New playground coming to FDR Park

Construction for a new playground at FDR Park is underway. 

The Fairmount Park Conservancy, in partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Friends of FDR Park, officially broke ground on the Anna C. Verna Playground and will be a world-class destination play space that encourages nature play for all ages and abilities.

The playground will cover more than 2 acres (93,800 square feet) of the 34.8-acre park on Pattison Avenue in South Philly.

Utilizing community input, the project will include a mega-swing set with 20 swings of five different varieties, designed for all ages overlooking the Pattison Lagoon; a nature-based play equipment including spinners, log and boulder scrambles, and treehouses with tube slides; rolling hills with slides; barrier-free adventure paths; a natural cork-based play surface; dedicated picnic area with nine new picnic sites and a new picnic pavilion; seat walls located under shady groves overlooking the play area; and new landscaping featuring beautiful native and pollinator-friendly plantings.

The new playground surface is nearly 100-percent water permeable and the site has been graded to mitigate flooding and soggy conditions. Play equipment is custom-designed and built for this site, including two massive tree trunks incorporated into the tree houses. It is also close to new food, drink and bathroom facilities currently under construction at the Welcome Center located across Pattison Lagoon. 

Evans’ military-academy diversity legislation passes House 

Congressman Dwight Evans secured House passage of his legislation designed to improve diversity at the nation’s military service academies and his bipartisan legislation to reauthorize a Delaware River basin conservation program.

Both of Evans’ legislative initiatives passed the House as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, considered to be one of the few “must-pass” bills that Congress handles each year.

“The military service academies represent a tremendous opportunity for those interested in serving their country in that way – including a free four-year university education. So I have been working for several years to improve the diversity of the academies’ student population, particularly among applicants from the 3rd Congressional District. I’m very pleased that my amendment was accepted on a voice vote,” Evans said.

Evans’ amendment would modify the Department of Defense’s annual report on demographics of military service academy applicants to identify disparities in demographic categories and identify suspected causes of such disparities within the application or nominating process.

Evans represents the only Pennsylvania congressional district with a majority African-American population. He urged those interested in a service academy nomination to visit evans.house.gov, then click “Services,” then “Military Academy Nominations.” Those interested can apply now. Oct. 31 is the deadline for 3rd District residents to apply.

The 3rd Congressional District includes Northwest and West Philadelphia and parts of North, South, Southwest and Center City Philadelphia.

In the same bill, Evans also won House passage of his legislation that would continue the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program, which benefits four states – Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York. The program was created in 2016 and is set to expire next year. 

Evans said, “I’m proud to be lead House sponsor of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act. The restoration program provides invaluable support, through technical and grant assistance, to restoration and protection activities throughout the Delaware River Basin, a vital watershed covering over 13,000 square miles in four states and reaching over 7 million people. Maintaining the program is essential to protecting ecological diversity, improving water quality and flood damage mitigation, expanding public access and recreation, and generating economic opportunities throughout the mid-Atlantic.”

Scanlon secures direct benefits in National Defense Authorization Act

Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon voted to pass the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act to strengthen national security with investments in America’s service members, alliances and partnerships, diversity and technology. Language secured by Scanlon in the legislation will deliver direct investments in Pennsylvania’s District 5 in jobs, businesses and support for federal firefighters.

The NDAA maintains funding for the CH-47F Block II Chinook and V-22 Osprey programs. These advanced-capability aircraft are manufactured in Ridley Park, providing good-paying local jobs to over 4,000 skilled men and women. In addition to providing thousands of local jobs, the programs benefit dozens of suppliers throughout Pennsylvania. 

“I am excited to share that this year’s defense bill will once again deliver direct benefits for my district,” said Scanlon. “The over 4,000 hardworking men and women who build these aircraft in Ridley Park are incredibly proud to contribute to our national security and disaster relief efforts. I am equally proud our government is investing in these amazing workers. I look forward to seeing it put to good use as PA-05 businesses and workers continue to contribute to America’s national security.”

Additionally, Scanlon secured the inclusion of the Federal Firefighters Workforce Support Act, a bill she introduced earlier this year to ensure federal firefighters are not forced to operate with staffing levels below national safety standards.

“I am also pleased that this year’s NDAA will include my bill to support the federal firefighters in my district and across the country,” she said. “Federal firefighters have some of the toughest and most strenuous jobs in our communities, but budget mitigation efforts have forced them to operate with substandard crew sizes — making their lifesaving and fire suppression efforts all the more demanding and dangerous. The Federal Firefighters Workforce Support Act will require DOD to adhere to nationally recognized fire protection staffing standards at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and across the country. As the NDAA process continues in the House and Senate, I will continue to advocate for the inclusion of these PA-05 priorities as the legislation makes its way to the president’s desk.”

Home repair program funded in budget

State Sen. Nikil Saval announced a $125 million appropriation in Pennsylvania’s 2022–23 budget to establish his Whole-Home Repairs Program.

Saval issued the following statement:

“Every person has a right to a home that is safe — a home that is healthy. But right now, across our commonwealth, hundreds of thousands of households are denied this right simply because they don’t have access to the resources they need to repair their homes.

“For decades, urban, suburban and rural communities alike have suffered from disinvestment from their government at all levels. The creation of the Whole-Home Repairs Program in this year’s budget changes that.

“This is a hard-fought victory for every Pennsylvanian who is struggling to stay in their home. This program is a direct investment in our people and our communities, whose needs have been ignored, and whose voices have gone unheard. At this time of protracted hardship across the commonwealth, we have seized a historic opportunity to move the needle on our housing crisis — permanently.

“What we have done sets a new standard. Today we have a program to preserve housing across the commonwealth, to stabilize our communities, to prevent blight and abandonment and displacement, to build a skilled workforce to keep our state at the forefront of the industries of the future, and to protect the place that is most dear to all of us: home. I’m committed to fighting for every household to have what they need to make their home whole.

“The United States needs a model for how to preserve its aging housing stock and create new jobs, and with the Whole-Home Repairs Program, Pennsylvania has positioned itself as a leader.”

The Whole-Home Repairs Program is the first of its kind in the nation, creating a one-stop shop for Pennsylvanians to repair and weatherize their homes by providing up to $50,000 for habitability repairs and energy efficiency upgrades, allocating support staff to ensure applicants receive the help they need in the order they need it, and funding pre-apprenticeship and training programs to build a skilled local workforce capable of meeting the growing demand.

Pennsylvania has some of the oldest housing stock in the country.

Saval, who serves as minority-party chairman of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, introduced the legislation with the entire Democratic caucus and five Republican senators as co-sponsors.

Young applauds education spending

State Rep. Regina Young said she is satisfied that the budget includes a large increase in education funding, for the school districts in her legislative district and throughout Pennsylvania.

The School District of Philadelphia received an increase of $189.3 million, a 14% increase from last year.

“I’m happy to see that the budget prioritized education as a fundamental part of our budget,” said Young, a Democrat who also represents part of Delaware County. “Education is the building block to a sound future, and I’m thankful of my colleagues who helped pass this budget – taking children’s needs into account.”

New light lager available at ARS

Brewery ARS has released a new light lager can in collaboration with Spork & Wentz, an animated micro series produced by Maestro Filmworks.

ARS, which has locations at 1927-29 W. Passyunk Ave. in South Philadelphia and 2223 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown, will be sponsoring two episodes of Spork & Wentz, a series that follows two hapless musicians in their everyday struggles as they pursue fame.

In addition to the beer can collaboration, the ARS name and logo will appear at the top of episode 3 and episode 4 during the title sequence. Their logo will also appear within the animations themselves as part of the background art.

Spork & Wentz was created by Alex Reinhard, a screenwriter, director and co-owner of Malix Media, a South Philadelphia-based production company, and Pat Richmond, an illustrator from Emmaus. The series can be viewed on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

“When Sean from Brewery ARS proposed the idea of brewing a Spork & Wentz beer, we said it needed to be something two broke musicians would drink,” Reinhard said.

The 4.4% ABV Spork & Wentz light lager is available for purchase at both Brewery ARS locations. 

Philly native releases poetry book

Screenwriter Chris Courtney Martin, a Philadelphia native, has released The Book of I.P. (Idol Poems) – a short hybrid poetry and essay collection. Each work in the collection represents an “ode” to story concepts Martin finds screen-worthy. The 65-page work contains 30 poems and two memoir-style essays. The book is available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B148JKLM. For more information, go to https://alienbuddhapress.wordpress.com/2022/06/16/spotlight-the-book-of-i-p-idle-poems-by-chris-courtney-martin/

Legends coming to Live!

Legends in Concert: Legendary Ladies will perform at the Event Center at Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia on Thursday, Aug. 4, and Friday, Aug. 5.

Groove to throwback hits by Aretha Franklin, Cher, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston, performed by tribute artists.

Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets start at $40 and are available for purchase at Philadelphia.LiveCasinoHotel.com or AXS.com.

Portraying Tina Turne is Lori Mitchell-Gay, who attended the High School for Creative and Performing Arts, majoring in theater and minoring in dance.

Other upcoming performances at Live! Include Cedric the Entertainer (Aug. 6), the Duprees (Aug. 7), An Evening with Housewives (Aug. 26), Candlebox (Sept. 4), Craig Ferguson (Sept. 9) and Billy Ocean (Oct. 6).

BlackStar Festival arrives

BlackStar Film Festival, the world’s premiere celebration of Black, Brown and Indigenous film and video artists, will take place Aug. 3-7.

In addition to virtual programming accessible to BlackStar’s global audience BlackStar is hosting a series of in-person screenings and events in Philadelphia, including opening and closing parties, and a panel on disability justice and filmmaking with visionary cultural workers. Passes for the festival—with early bird rates—are now available at https://www.blackstarfest.org/festival/tickets/.

The lineup of films ranges from feature documentaries to sci-fi films and addressing themes such as Indigenous sovereignty, the US maternal health crisis and Black queer love with insight, power, humor and artistry. The 2022 BlackStar Film Festival is set to feature a total of 76 films representing 27 countries, including 16 world, 8 North America, 12 East Coast and 8 US premieres.

Summer of Wonder begins at library

The Free Library of Philadelphia has launched a new season of reading, literacy and activities for all ages that continues through Aug. 12 at libraries across the city.

The Free Library’s Summer of Wonder program encourages students to continue reading and learning throughout the summer. Free activities held at libraries across the city include writing sessions, introductory culinary sessions, story times and college and career prep for teens. 

“Summer is an awesome time for reading, learning, and exploration, and you can do all of that at the Free Library through the Summer of Wonder program,” said Kelly Richards, president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia. “Stop by your neighborhood library or visit us online for free programs that will infuse literacy and fun into your summer months.” 

Summer of Wonder and Science in the Summer will be hosting virtual and in-person events throughout the summer. A full list of library events is available at freelibrary.org/calendar. 

Activities at Academy of Natural Sciences

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is hosting several current and upcoming exhibits.

Sea Change is running indefinitely.

The River Feeds Back, going through Oct. 30, is an immersive sound installation created by artists Annea Lockwood and Liz Phillips. The exhibit brings visitors into the deep sonic environment of the Schuylkill River watershed through recordings and a layered sound map that captures glimpses of the river system including the life of aquatic insects, eels, fish and swirling currents.

Ocean Bound will run from Aug. 20 to Jan. 15, 2023.

South Phila. HS class of ‘68 reunion

The South Philadelphia High School Class of 1968 will hold its 55th reunion on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Waterfall Room, 2015 S. Water St. Tickets cost $60 and include buffet dinner and open bar. For tickets and more information, call Arleen Liberi [609-922-2419], Maria Leati [856-287-3734] or Stephen Michielli [267-252-2740].

Upcoming cruise

The Bristol Cultural and Historical Foundation is sponsoring a fully escorted Holy Lands & Aegean Majesty cruise that will sail Oct. 6-17, 2023, featuring 10 ports-of-call. Rates, including airfare, range from $4,198 to $7,998 per person, double occupancy. Call 215-788-9408 for information and reservations.

Kimmel schedule

The Kimmel Cultural Campus will present Dear Evan Hansen (Aug. 16-28, Forrest Theatre). For more information, call 215-893-1955 or visit kimmelcenter.org

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