Neighbors discuss promising future of NESTco project

NESTco, an initiative meant to create a comprehensive directory of services offered in Northeast Philadelphia, met to discuss accomplishments in 2018 and what to look forward to in 2019.

Members and people interested in NESTco last week met at CityReach Philly Christian Church to discuss what the group accomplished this year, and what to look forward to in 2019.

NESTco is an initiative started by Councilman Bobby Henon to create a directory of all services for Northeast Philadelphia residents. The goal is to include all types of services, from shelter to food to child welfare and mental health support.

“[Councilman Henon] started seeing in the community there were a lot of people experiencing poverty, growing crime, and people were becoming disassociated from one another,” said Pastor Tricia Neale, who is on the NESTco executive board. “But yet he noticed there were a lot of good agencies doing really good work in the communities, but somehow the power of those agencies was not affecting the problems.”

Gathering these various agencies together to form NESTco was meant to see what these agencies could do when they worked together.

Much of 2018 was dedicated to organizing and preparing for the future for the fairly new initiative. Top items on the agenda for next year include publishing the directory in print, officially becoming a nonprofit, publishing a website that lists all services in one place and spreading the word.

“Our mission is to make sure all members of Northeast Philadelphia know where to turn for help,” said Bob Byrne of the NESTco board of directors.

The initiative was nothing but an idea less than two and a half years ago, Byrne said.

“The first two years was a lot of ideas and conceptual work, and this next year is when we’ll really start to see the results,” he said.

NESTco is also looking for new members. Any organization, nonprofit, church, synagogue or for-profit looking to do some good is welcome to join. Email bob@philashelter.org if interested in participating. Membership is $25 a year.

General meetings are held once a month. The next few meetings will be on Jan. 10, at Turning Points for Children; Feb. 14, at the Tacony Library; March 14, at Feast of Justice; April 11, at the Greater Philadelphia Diaper Bank; and May 9, at Friends Hospital.

Some NESTco members include the City of Philadelphia Office of Community Empowerment, CityReach Church, CORA Services, Friends Hospital, Interim Healthcare of Northeast Philadelphia, Kingdom Life Christian Center, Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network and Turning Points for Children CUA.

During the meeting, members elected the board of directors. In addition to Neale and Byrne, members include Pastor Hubert Barnes, Star of Hope Baptist Church; Kenneth Bigos, director of the Affordable Housing Centers of Pennsylvania; Mary Doherty, the director of government and strategic partnerships at CORA Services; Karen Irwin, Assistant Director of Business Development for Friends Hospital; Patricia Kennedy, the executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Diaper Bank; Andrew Lemon, Community Liaison for Turning Points for Children CUA; Mark Novales, one of the founders of CityReach Church Philly; Danette Ray, senior pastor of the Kingdom Life Christian Center; Ginger Smith, Community Liaison for Catholic Community Services; and Emma Wagner, Deputy Chief of Staff to Henon. ••