About the Contributors

Hello Reader!

We are fifteen community leaders from all over Philadelphia who came together to share our stories and learn from one another through a project called Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

This resulting Citizens Toolkit shows how we each tackled neighborhood challenges, and distills tips and lessons for fellow Philadelphians.

We are people who struggle to fix the problems we encounter in our neighborhood. When we came together for Neighbors Helping Neighbors, we found we had a lot in common in how we tackle challenges in our communities. We all look for where we can go to get support; keep open and transparent communication with our neighbors; stay persistent with those who can help; and constantly look for new ways to keep our neighbors informed.

It quickly became clear that no matter what neighborhood you’re in, the first step to making change is always the same: talking to your neighbors face to face. And beyond talking, also being a good neighbor and getting to know what’s important to your community!

You are empowered to do something! You can be the leader your neighborhood needs, and the Toolkit is organized to help you accomplish this. We hope you’ll use it as a source of encouragement, and as a guide for getting projects off the ground, finding support, and increasing and sustaining participation in citizen-led community groups!

Best wishes,

Citizens Toolkit Contributors

Naida Elena Burgos


How I First Got Involved in My Neighborhood: “I was always interested in service and decided to volunteer with Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha after I was encouraged to do so by a local woman who knows everyone in the community.”

Leroy Fisher


How I First Got Involved in My Neighborhood: “I came home from the Marines and found young men in my neighborhood losing their lives to crime and violence. I wanted to reach them and the connection was through sports. I worked with two friends to form a youth football league. We have ten teams today.”

Tonnetta Graham


How I Got Involved in My Neighborhood: “I called [then] Councilman Street to complain about the neighborhood’s water pipes and pool being broken. He told me to attend a public meeting he was holding; I showed up with my complaint and the pool was fixed and the water outages stopped.”

Richard Harris


How I Got Involved: “I went to a Somerset Neighbors meeting after getting a flyer at my church. I saw resources they offered and wanted to do what I could to bring those to the neighbors around the church.”

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Sheila Howard


How I Got Involved: “I moved back to the neighborhood and saw we lacked stores for basic goods and services. I attended CPI and my final project that was helping revitalize 17th Street with Tioga United.”

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Michael Jones


How I Got Involved: “I wanted to clean up the lots around my property and get students to act like better neighbors. I got involved, attended one civic association meeting too many and was nominated to be president!”

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Lisa Maiello


How I Got Involved: “I knew I wanted to join something. I did some research, found the Kensington South NAC, and started attending their meetings.”

Peter McDermott


How I Got Involved: “I was reaching my mid-thirties and felt it was time for my generation to step up and take some of the load off of the folks who had been doing all of the local civic work. I had my own concerns and ideas on how to improve the neighborhood and joined Mayfair Civic Association.”

Warren McMichael


How I Got Involved: “I started as a block captain. I led block cleanups, picked up the trash, and pushed [then Councilman] John Street to get the abandoned cars out of the neighborhood.”

Picture of Ramona wearing a white hat.

Ramona Rousseau-Reid


How I Got Involved: “I attended our Town Watch after seeing drag racing outside the Pepper School. To stop this, I created a phone chain for each block so everyone would call the Police District when something was going on. We got speed bumps to deter the drag racing.”

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John Theobald


How I Got Involved: “I attended my neighborhood zoning meeting and saw the zoning committee voted differently than the community vote but they didn’t tell anyone about it. I decided to become a member of the committee to work on reform to set new standards for transparency.”

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Joyce Smith


How I Got Involved: “I went to my local CDC and said I wanted to get involved. After they shut down, I was talking to a local block captain and a couple other people I know and we decided to form a civic association because not much was happening without one.”

Black woman wearing red shirt.

Stacy Thomas


How I Got Involved: “I was reading my neighborhood newspapers and saw an ad about free smoke detectors. I went to the fire department in 1979 to get one and realized I should get ones for my whole block.”

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Betty Turner


How I First Got Involved in My Neighborhood: “I was a parent concerned about health care and we didn’t have those services in the neighborhood. I went to the nearest hospital and asked health care professionals to bring pediatricians to our neighborhood public housing. This led to a clinic opening at a local PHA site!”

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James Wright


How I First Got Involved in My Neighborhood: “I saw a notice about a NAC meeting either on a flyer or copy of Westside Weekly. I went to the meeting and there were elections right after. The chair encouraged me to run so I did. After that, I instigated a bit by putting a flyer in every door on my block asking who was the block captain. After finding we didn’t have one, a few of us got together and another neighbor volunteered to do it!”