If you've attended Calvary for a while, you know that we often participate in Philadelphia-area Christmas toy drives, back-to-school collections, and summer block party events. Partnerships with urban organizations have been a priority at Calvary since 2012 when we began our 5-Year Campaign which included an Urban Priority.
We've partnered with many organizations including By Grace Alone Church, Grace & Peace, Esperanza Health Center, Hunting Park United, & Oxford Circle CCDA / Mennonite Church. We spent some time talking with Anita Lyndaker-Studer from Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association to get an insider look at this organization that makes so many of these events possible.
CC: Hi, Anita. Thanks for talking with us today. Calvary has been working together with Oxford Circle CCDA for the last 6 years. Can you tell us more about OCCCDA and the work that happens there?
AL-S: Sure! The mission of Oxford Circle CCDA is “to extend healing and hope in the Oxford Circle community believing that God’s purpose of reconciling all people to Jesus leads us to minister on spiritual, physical, social and economic levels." Within that mission, we focus on education by ministering to children, youth, and adults to help nurture and develop leadership skills that will benefit our community. We organize a wide variety of programs that help us achieve that vision including after-school and summer camps, GED and ELL (English language learners) classes, a family resource center on site at our partner elementary, Carnell, a preschool, and an early childhood literacy initiative that is looking at the need for programming for our youngest community members ages birth-3.
Additionally Oxford Circle CCDA focuses on community and economic development in our community to develop opportunities for sustainable employment and business development. Some of the ways we are currently working towards that goal is through a business corridor revitalization initiative launched in January 2018 and through our upcoming thrift store scheduled to open in July that will provide both community programming onsite as well as meaningful employment, access to quality and affordable goods and income to support our growing programs.
CC: What are some of the highlights from those programs from this past year?
AL-S: Our summer camp reached 100 students and our school-year program served 135 students. These free programs are especially helpful for children whose parents aren't fluent in English as it helps them supplement their learning outside of school hours when parents may not be able to help them with their education. In 2017, an average of 65 adult learners attended ELL classes and10 students attended GED classes. Our Carnell Family Resource Center served over 70 students/families through case management, behavioral support and parent workshops. We are also in our second year of partnering with Kinder Academy to provide high quality child care services. Currently Kinder Academy is serving 90 children daily and all of their preschool slots are free. The literacy initiative is being designed to help children start learning to love reading at home so they are ready to begin school with a strong literacy foundation.
CC: What are some of the specific programs that Calvary has partnered with this past year?
AL-S: Calvary has been part of some exciting projects through OCCCDA in 2017! Church volunteers helped us raise money for recess and physical education play equipment at our Family Resource Center in Carnell Elementary School. Calvary has also committed to helping raise funds and install playground equipment at Carnell for our newly redesigned outdoor play space (plans are scheduled for completion 4/30/18!). We also held a community service day at Carnell followed by a cookout. Volunteers participated in clean-up and beautification projects to create an improved environment for the school community. In the fall, we hosted the 6th Annual Toy Store in partnership with Calvary. In all, 165 families and over 402 children were served! The remaining toys were donated to children at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and Esperanza Health Center.
CC: Those have been fun events for us to be part of! What are some other ways that Calvary attenders can get involved throughout the year?
AL-S: We're always looking for volunteers to tutor/mentor in our after-school, summer camps and adult education programs. We will also need donated quality used goods and volunteers at our upcoming thrift store. Businesses can sponsor events or trips for the students so we can continue to broaden their horizons and develop their leadership abilities. And prayer is always welcome! Pray for our leaders and volunteers, for our students and their families, and for our businesses and community to find the healing that only Jesus can provide as we continue to minister through the many programs that OCCCDA offers.