We asked and our community delivered!
Thank you to everyone who shared their story. The five winners are: YMCA of Greater Brandywine, Casa Guanajuato Kennett Square, Mighty Writers, New London Counseling Center and Phoenixville Area Community Services (PACS).
The winners received $500 to celebrate their staff and volunteers, who are Chester County’s very own superheroes.
Read the stories below:
“The New London Counseling Center (NLCC) was only in operation for just a year when the pandemic started, and the team quickly figured out how to tend to the needs of their clients by moving their in-person appointments to virtual appointments. Not only did the staff continue to meet the needs of their clients, NLCC also promoted well being for the entire community with free videos on their YouTube channel covering a multitude of topics like mindfulness, self care, healthy sleep and nutrition, coping strategies, parenting tips, and so much more.
NLCC continued to serve their clients and the community while also planning and hosting their first ever Gala. The whole purpose of the Gala was to raise funds so that NLCC can continue to support its mission to provide counseling to our community and remove the stigma and hurdles to getting mental health care.”
“When the lockdown was imminent leadership contacted the software company to allow therapists to hold virtual counseling sessions. This was vital because clients young and old who were already struggling with anxiety and depression had their symptoms exasperated. Many clients said being able to meet with their therapist virtually saved their lives.”
“NLCC provides high quality mental health services to Southern Chester County. Often the people who need the most help have the least resources to access the support they need. NLCC breaks down barriers to accessing mental health treatment including distance to travel for services and cost. Prior to NLCC’s opening 3 years ago, affordable counseling was 20-30 minutes away for many residents of Southern Chester County. NLCC offers a low fee for service rate and scholarship options if unable to pay the standard rate so that anyone can access support regardless of their ability to pay. They offer individual, family, and couples counseling as well as workshops and groups. NLCC collaborates with local businesses and schools to bring awareness to mental health issues and offer support to our community. As a therapist at NLCC, I have seen individual lives saved and forever changed by the financial support and access to services at NLCC.”
“The last two years PACS has successfully expanded their reach with other non-profits and businesses, added new services, supported an increase of clients during the pandemic and a natural disaster, and moved to larger building.
In 2020, PACS had outgrown their facility and began looking for a new location. They onboarded a new Executive Director on March 9th and March 13th their distribution procedures changed due to the pandemic to protect staff and clients. PACS continued providing services and was never closed during the early days of the shutdown. As the pandemic continued, the number of clients who needed food increased. PACS worked closely with the school district and other local non-profits to ensure the most vulnerable in the community were fed, especially our children and seniors.
PACS found a new location and successfully moved to a new location October of 2020. The extra space allowed them to expand their partnerships with local businesses and increased their food rescue program This helped to offset the greater need of food for the increase in clients. In 2021, they implemented A Simple Gesture program. This volunteer program picks up donations quarterly from donors across our service area. This eliminates the need for donors to drop off their donations at PACS.
The pandemic provided PACS the chance to improve services to ensure all clients who needed food were able to receive it. Pop-up pantries took the food to local neighborhoods so it would be easier for clients to get food. PACS implemented Silver Service, which provides food delivery to our seniors.
Even during the natural disaster, Hurricane Ida, PACS was there to support the community. Food was provided to a partner organization so the first responders and those impacted by the flood were fed. In fact they loaned their refrigerated van to the emergency management team to help.
PACS is a superhero organization that has continued to grow while facing a global pandemic and a natural disaster. PACS has demonstrated they successfully met their mission every day the last two years. PACS is the lead resource for food insecurity in the greater Phoenixville community.”
“KACS is always here for the community, for anyone in need and give all in hands possible. No matter who. Help every time!”
“Mighty Writers pivoted from a writing and reading organization to support the Latino community in Chester County with a weekly food distribution in West Grove, providing them not only with food but also with diapers, hygiene products, books, cleaning supplies. As well with several other initiatives to support them, for example blanket, jackets, sleeping bags, Christmas toys, clothes and shoes, to name a few.”
“For the past 2+ years, Mighty Writers distributes food weekly to the mainly Hispanic community from West Grove United Methodist Church. Regardless of the weather (cold, rain, snow, wind or heat), Mighty Writers feeds at least 200 to 300 families as well as providing diapers, wipes, and sanitary products. They also have coordinated COVID-19 vaccination drives to protect the community. They accomplish this through a small professional employee core augmented by dedicated volunteers. The local families greatly benefit from their efforts.”
“Casa Guanajuato is a cultural nonprofit organization and has been supporting the Mexican and Latino community for 20 yrs. After the pandemic they focus all of their attention in helping the students in the area with remote learning, advocating for for digital literacy and supporting them with Internet accessibility. They also continue to provide their events vía zoom for the community, to advocate for the importance of their culture, heritage and customs.”
“Hurricane Ida hit on Wednesday, Sept 1, 2021, and devastated Downingtown Borough. The flood water hit just before the rain ended, knocking out power and filling basements and first floors of homes throughout the Borough. Housing Partnership (HPCC) sustained $125,000 worth of damage and was closed for 3 months. While draining, cleaning and repairing our building over the month of September, it became apparent that businesses and residents alike were receiving no help from our local, county or state elected officials.
HPCC had received a PHARE grant on September 3, 2021, from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) for an ongoing housing rehabilitation program. Knowing that many homeowners in the Downingtown community were struggling to make repairs and get back in their homes before the weather turned cold, HPCC had the grant funds repurposed to help. Without the office as a base for communications, we did our best to offer grants to those without flood insurance and those who were under-insured. We were able to assist 10 homeowners replace HVAC systems, hot water heaters and electric rewiring, at no cost. Our offer to help spread by word-of-mouth, and by the end of November, checks had been written to homeowners at a total cost of $115,000.
HPCC was thrilled to be able to offer help to our community during a time of need. We continue to offer programs geared toward improving the quality of life for low-to-moderate income people of Chester County, by providing the ability to acquire and maintain decent affordable housing.”
“Both companies have worked with me to collect donations throughout the community to help provide warm blankets, coats and other items to those in need in the community, in conjunction with Mighty Writers. Whenever I called, both fire companies were there, anxious to help, even though they already do so much in the community. And an extra shout out to Longwood fire and Matt Eick for helping me when I got a spider bite that caused my hand to swell.”
“The YGBW routinely goes above and beyond when serving our communities but the work during COVID was something special. While struggling to keep their doors open, their staff and volunteers handled food collection, blood drives, serving as vaccination sites, and started up learning centers to help kids get the support they needed while schools were virtual. The YGBW was there every step of the way over the past 2 years.”
“YGBW went above and beyond during the pandemic to serve our community. Whether it was with food collection, blood drives, serving as a vaccination site, or the startup of learning centers to help kids get the support they needed while schools were virtual, the Y was there!”
“Food collection, blood drives, serving as a vaccination site, and startup of learning centers to help kids get the support they needed while schools were virtual.”
“Nick Parise of the West Chester branch and the rest of the Y team made several sacrifices to stay open as long as the governor would allow them to serve the public health and wellness of the community and took amazing precautions to keep everyone safe in a time when people had so few options to stay healthy outside their own homes. They also made the ultimate sacrifice of letting go of long-time employees who had been loyal long-time staff to accommodate without enough funding.”
“The YMCA of Greater Brandywine stepped up during the pandemic! They stepped up for their members as well as for the community. For their members, they offered options for memberships, migrated to online and outdoor classes, and instituted safe practices to get kids back swimming as soon as possible. For the community, they did food collection and distribution, blood drives and acted as vaccination sites. Further, they spun up learning centers to help students/parents get the support they need while the schools were virtual! They were a tremendous asset to so many communities in our area!”
“The YMCA of Greater Brandywine offered as many essential services as they could to the community throughout the pandemic. While most of us here home in lock-down and businesses were closed to the public, the YMCA offered a food pantry (accepting donations and providing free food to those in need. They also provided some of the only facilities to offer learning centers during daytime hours when schools were closed with only virtual learningl. After-school day-care was also made available. They put on blood drives and served as vaccination sites. They almost never closed, and they did all of this while operating with a skeleton staff since many of their regular gym provisions had to be closed down. They truly were and continue to be an essential pillar in our communities.”
“The YMCA of Greater Brandywine is my favorite community hero, always. They are there to serve both those in current need and to build the overall community health and spirit to sustain itself in times of crisis. I was especially impressed with the speed and depth of the Y’s response during the start of the COVID crisis. Of course, they sustained the support throughout but the quick thinking and creativity at the start is of particular note. The Y used the community awareness of their physical locations and reputation for safety to encourage families to support and benefit from food drives, blood drives and vaccination opportunities. The most impressive move, however, was the rapid development of learning centers to help kids get the support they needed while schools were virtual. These centers manned by qualified and screened adults maximized the ability of kids, particularly those who had difficulty getting educational support at home, to get technical support for tuning in to virtual classes, the loving reminders needed to sustain attention to those classes, and a gentle supportive hand in working through the stubborn learning spots that require one on one attention to overcome. Learning was a challenge for all during these times. Socialization was down to zero for many during this time. Many of these kids would have fallen dramatically behind, if not out, of an upward educational experience had the Y not stepped in to provide them a safe and supportive place to go every day. Congratulations to the organization for their quick thinking and expenditure of resources to make this happen. Thank-you to the courageous staff who volunteered to become front-line fighters in the face of a pandemic for the sake of these kids.”
“The YGBW went above and beyond, especially during the pandemic, to serve our community. They facilitated multiple food drives, blood drives, served as a vaccination site, and aided in the startup of learning centers to help kids receive needed support while schools were virtual. The YGBW has constantly put the needs of the community first, and, as a personal member, I have seen lives change due to their very generous support, which is why I am confident that the YGBW should be named a community hero.”
“The YMCA of Greater Brandywine Board and Staff considered every possible option to support the families and the communities of Chester County during the COVID pandemic, including food drives, blood drives, classroom teaching and supervision while home schooling was mandated and numerous other options. The Y continues to seek out ways to build and strengthen healthy communities in our county. Please consider this worthy organization for your Community Heroes recognition. Thank you!”
“The YMCA of Greater Brandywine went above and beyond during one of the most difficult times of our lifetimes. They collected and distributed food when food insecurity was at a peak during the pandemic. They provided vaccination sites at their facilities to help the county and community. The Y also created learning centers to help school children who had virtual classes and parents that worked as essential workers.
The Y also conducted blood drives during the pandemic. I had experience with the need for blood since my brother was undergoing blood cancer treatments during this time and there was a shortage of blood in the area for blood transfusions. In a way, I can say the Y helped save lives indirectly.
We are all blessed that the staff of the Ys are creative and hard workers to step up to the plate when the community needed it the most.”
“As a community fitness and wellness organization, Covid-19 resulted in the closure of the YMCA facilities for approximately 18 months. During that time, they restructured their entire business and operations to help thousands of families and children to have access to wellness classes and provide other support for families in need. As a result, the families and children of Chester County had access to an organization that created a positive environment, both spiritually and physically. Having access to instructors and supportive people that helped everyone figure out how to stay positive during a national crisis, as well as support real supportive activities such as food drives, helping people find new jobs, free access to the entire organizations’ classes, was beyond anything that anyone thought possible. Senior mgt even voluntarily reduced their salaries to help support the organization, very impressive. The YMCA transitioned to become a 100% virtual wellness community, in a matter of weeks. This helped, thousands of families and children to be able to stay positive during the Covid-19 epidemic/crisis. When the going got extremely tough for our community, the YMCA rallied and gave back to the community, more than anyone could have expected. Thank-you YMCA!”
“During the pandemic of Covid-19 our executive director, staff, Board Members and Center completely reinvented our way of servicing our Senior Members in the West Chester Community. After being told that we had to shut our doors, within a week through the dedication of our entire staff we transformed our facility into a food distribution center to provide nourishment to those in need. As Board President, it was an honor to watch our facility take on the challenge of this pandemic and make use of food donations from both long-time and newly formed partnerships and provide a weekly food distribution center that has provided over 256,000 meals and even pet food if needed. This center has served over 700 seniors during the 2-year period of March 2020 thru March 2022. In addition to the food distribution center our staff created/fundraised for and built our new and permanent “Corner Cabinet” which is now fully functioning inside our center for all seniors to enjoy. This undertaking took less than 6 months from inception to reality! We have recently re-opened our doors to welcome back all our Seniors with an updated facility and newly added Corner Cabinet to fully serve all those who come and participate in our center. Even in the adversity of being “closed” our Executive Director, Board and Staff were able to keep our facility fully functioning and enriching the lives of our senior neighbors through friendship, activities, education and nourishment which is the cornerstone of our philosophy.”
“Brian Doyle refers clients to me through Legal Aid’s Pro Bono Program. He always has a client’s best interests at heart. Often, the clients are in crisis. They have been battered or beaten. They lack adequate financial resources, and their self-esteem is non-existent. Brian sees the very best in every client and works diligently to match them with caring and competent counsel. He goes way beyond the call of duty. He is also a strong mentor to young attorneys. I think he is an exemplary Community Hero!”
“Aiden’s Heart Foundation (AHF) was formed in 2010 following the unexpected death of 7 year old Aiden Silva from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). AHF’s mission is create heart-safe communities in response to SCA. To date, AHF has accomplished the following:
-Placed 125 automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in youth based facilities
-Provided 2,200 free heart screenings to youth aged 5-19 where undetected heart conditions are found that could lead to SCA
-Trained 8,000 teens in how to perform life-saving
hands-only CPR and how to use an AED to restart a heart”
“Christy Marshall Silva turned tragedy into hope when she lost her oldest son, Aiden, to sudden cardiac arrest. In honor of Aiden, who passed away at the age of seven, Christy created the Aiden’s Heart Foundation. Since its creation in 2013, Aiden’s Heart Foundation has financially supported the installation of 100 AED’s, provided free heart screenings for 2,100 children, and has trained over 6,000 students, teachers and parents to save lives using CPR and AED’s. Not only is Christy an amazing leader of this foundation, she is also the mother of three and a reading teacher with the Downingtown Area School District. Christy inspires me every day with her strength and motivation to help others.”
“The team at The Garage Youth Center has been going above and beyond our daily mission and services since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Initially, our staff worked as a support system for Kennett Area Community Services (KACS) and Mighty Writers while also distributing food, cleaning supplies, hygiene supplies and more for six months of 2020. Staff continued to stay connected to our students through virtual means during the earliest days of the pandemic to help them feel connected and loved during the unknown and scariest days. This included 15 paid summer internships for our high school students during the summer of 2020. When many adults (our parents) were unable to work due to closures, we made it a priority to hire and pay as many students as possible when they needed to support their households. When schools were forced to move to a virtual opening in Fall 2020, The Garage recognized that our students’ mental health and educational access was suffering, and we opened our doors for in-person daytime school support. Beyond our two centers, we also opened a third high school Learning Pod/Community Classroom at Kennett Presbyterian Church. And after hearing concerns from parents and the community that younger students were not being served, we opened a K-5th grade Learning Pod/Community Classroom at Chatham Financial. At our peak, we served 100 students daily for in-person support for virtual school, including breakfast, lunch, snack, and social-emotional support. Again, in the Fall of 2021, the team stepped up to house families who were displaced from the Avondale Apartment complex during Hurricane Ida. For four days and three nights, our team worked 24/7 to shelter, feed, and care for 35 individuals (including a beautiful newborn baby!). Through it all, our team never faltered. They continued to seek out and develop new and innovative ways to serve not only our students and families, but the broader community over the past two years. I am so proud of this group of selfless and loving people who I call our team, and they deserve to be recognized and celebrated!”
“COVID created new obstacles and challenges for everyone. When SILO’s in-person, relational approach to sharing services had to adjust due to COVID, so did the staff and board. Through countless phone calls and texts with friends (clients) who were isolated at home, SILO’s staff maintained critical relational connection with the most vulnerable in our community. We learned of the needs of those struggling from job loss, sickness and childcare challenges. Staff worked tirelessly to shift our usual programming to delivering meals and groceries to friends as they safely quarantined at home. The staff, board and volunteers were constantly brainstorming creative ways to adapt to our changing environment, including starting a new program to install raised vegetable beds in the back yards of our friends experiencing food insecurity. Rather than focusing on what we could no longer do (the majority of our previous services), SILO focused on what creative things we could do to support of friends. While many people experienced a time of rest and slowing down during COVID, SILO’s staff worked double-time to ensure no one in our community experienced hunger or isolation.
Overall, COVID revealed the creativity, strength and commitment of SILO, its staff, board and volunteers.”