Leadership changes at Frankford CDC, EPIC

Passing the baton: Kimberly Washington (left) leads Frankford CDC, while Charlene Lewis (right) succeeds her at Northeast EPIC Stakeholders. JOHN LOFTUS / TIMES PHOTO

Attorney Kimberly Washington, whom many Frankford residents know as the coordinator for CORA Services Northeast EPIC Stakeholders, is the new executive director of the Frankford Community Development Corporation.

Washington, 29, was on the job June 1. Her position merges the positions of former director Tracy O’Drain and former commercial corridor manager Michelle Feldman. Both Feldman and O’Drain left in the spring.

Washington began her new job during the last month of the CDC’s fiscal year, which made tackling the group’s budget her first task. But what she hopes residents will notice about the CDC is that it will forge stronger alliances in the neighborhood.

“There will be a lot more community ties,” she said.

The free community computer lab, which opened last year, will stay in place, she said, and Northeast EPIC Stakeholders, a nonprofit set up to promote community involvement, will be headquartered at the CDC’s building at 4900 Griscom St. The Frankford Neighborhood Advisory Council’s offices are in the same building.

The CDC will be working with the City Planning Commission, she said.

Washington said she will host programs with the Financial Empowerment Center, a nonprofit that helps residents with personal finances and conducts legal information workshops.

The CDC was set up to promote housing and business development in Frankford, Washington said during a June 26 interview at the CDC offices. Right now, the organization owns properties on the 4600 and 4700 blocks of Griscom St., several lots at the intersection of Ditman, Gillingham and Tackawanna streets, and a property on the 4200 block of Penn St.

Washington wants to get those properties sold or developed for housing. Part of the challenge in doing that is that “Frankford, as a neighborhood, gets a bad reputation,” she said.

Washington, who was raised in Frankford, knows the neighborhood’s good and bad sides. She graduated from Frankford High School before going to Temple University for her undergraduate degree in business and then her law degree. She’s worked as coordinator for Northeast EPIC Stakeholders for three years, conducting monthly informational programs first at Aria Health’s Frankford campus and then at the Second Baptist Church of Frankford. She and Jason Dawkins, an aide to City Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, formed the Frankford Parks Group to revitalize a few small neighborhood parks. Washington had served as president.

She’s always working for Frankford and is not shy about it, said Dwight Leevy, community development specialist for the city’s Department of Human Services. “She’s the one who asks the questions that get on everybody’s nerves.”

WHY NOT FRANKFORD?

Frankford has its share of crime, vacant properties and litter.

But people don’t realize Frankford has many assets, Washington said. It’s a neighborhood with good access to public transportation as well as bridges and highways. It has a commercial corridor and reasonable real estate prices.

For example, Washington said the CDC hopes to sell its Penn Street property for about $50,000.

Real estate is a big plus in Frankford, Quinones Sanchez said in a June 20 interview. The neighborhood needs to attract developers who could renovate buildings to provide affordable housing.

“There is so much that is positive in this neighborhood,” Washington said.

Part of that, Quinones Sanchez said, is that Frankford has a solid collection of stakeholders that includes charter schools and many churches. Sanchez has been sponsoring façade improvements to the 4600 block of Frankford Ave. Washington said she is looking forward to seeing that work continue on the 4700 and 4800 blocks.

The CDC gets its funds from the city’s Department of Human Services as well as from “tax partners” Aria Health and McDonald’s. For every dollar the hospital and the fast-food chain donate to the CDC, Washington said, they get a dollar in city tax credits.

Connections, experience and advice are big factors, too. Washington said the CDC has gotten help from the councilwoman’s office, the office of state Rep. James Clay (D-179th dist.), the city’s Commerce Department, managing director’s office, volunteers and the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

Is there any one material thing that could help the CDC?

Two things, Washington said. If anybody could spare a couple of combination copier-printer-fax machines, the CDC wouldn’t say no.

For more information, call Washington at 215–743–6580. ••

Lewis ‘couldn’t stay away’

Northeast EPIC Stakeholder’s new coordinator is Charlene Lewis, 48, a Frankford resident — “born and raised.”

She had worked at the Frankford Neighborhood Advisory Council until November 2012.

“But once you do this kind of work,” she said, “I couldn’t stay away.”

Lewis was expected to start her new job on Monday. She’ll keep hours three days a week at the CDC offices on the 4900 block of Griscom St. and work two days a week at the Verree Road headquarters of Catholic nonprofit CORA, which sponsors EPIC. Exact days and hours will be set later, she said.

Lewis succeeds Kimberly Washington, who has become executive director of the Frankford Community Development Corporation.

The Northeast EPIC Stakeholders bring helpful information to residents so they can improve their own lives and their neighborhood. Programs at the organization’s monthly meetings over the past three years have ranged from education, neighborhood safety and personal finances to art, legal issues and health care.

At the June 27 meeting, attorney Steven Barrett said he will be conducting legal workshops at the CDC offices on such topics as unemployment, property condemnation, commercial leases and consumer protection.

Leslie Kaufman, president of Philadelphia Sculptors, talked about a $335,000 grant the Philadelphia City Planning Commission got from ArtPlace America, a group of nonprofit foundations that have banded together to support the arts nationwide. Kaufman said plans for “Destination Frankford” include a sculpture in Womrath Park at Kensington and Frankford avenues as well as street furniture and planters. Another part of the proposal is to open a “pop-up store” in a yet-to-be-named vacant Frankford Avenue store to house artists and retailers.

Northeast EPIC Stakeholders’ two-hour sessions begin at 5:30 p.m., usually on the last Thursday of the month, and are held in the basement of the Second Baptist Church of Frankford, Meadow and Mulberry streets. ••