Emma Hatton Wilson received a great gift for her 75th birthday.
Family, friends and elected officials gathered at the corner of 22nd and Morris streets on March 11 to recognize and celebrate Wilson’s lifetime of service to the South Philadelphia community by naming a city block in her honor.
Wilson was able to celebrate her birthday on March 12 with the first full day of the 1700 block of S. 22nd Street being known as “Emma Hatton Wilson Way.”
“Mrs. Emma Hatton Wilson is a pillar in South Philadelphia and the longtime leader of the Dixon House,” said City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, who was on hand at the celebration. “During her service at the Dixon House, she worked to keep the residents of the community fed by overseeing a number of feeding programs. Her dedication to helping others extended past her career and into her everyday life. Naming this block in her honor salutes her contributions to the Point Breeze community of South Philadelphia.”
Wilson, a Philadelphia native, graduated from the former Edward W. Bok Technical High School with a diploma in retail sewing. After graduation, she became a worker with AmeriCorps VISTA, a national service program designed to help create programs to alleviate poverty. While working for AmeriCorps, Wilson began her lifelong path as a community activist, becoming the voice and outcry for a cleaner and safer environment at the Delaplaine McDaniel School In Point Breeze.
Wilson met Peter Moore, who was the director for Dixon House, a community center operated by Diversified Community Services. Moore recruited Wilson to help with youth programs at the Dixon House in South Philadelphia in the early 1980s.
Wilson later oversaw the after-school day care program, a day treatment program, the Peacemakers program and the Teens Who Care and Share youth program at Dixon House. Eventually, she was also enlisted to operate the summer camp at Stephen Girard Elementary School.
Wilson was promoted to Dixon House executive director in 1995 and served the position for seven years. During her leadership of the Dixon House, she oversaw a variety of programs including the senior citizens’ lunch program, the kid’s café, a soup kitchen and operations of the Camp Unami, the agency’s former overnight summer camp located in the suburbs. The City Council resolution creating the ceremonial “Emma Hatton Wilson Way” was sponsored by Johnson and approved by Council in September.