A resident of Mantua in West Philadelphia passes by a mural in the neighborhood, which was recently selected as a Promise Zone by President Obama. Credit: Charles Mostoller/METRO
The People’s Emergency Center for more than 15 years has been serving needy families in West Philadelphia and beyond, helping them with job training, housing, counseling and more.
It was the realization that more financial advice was needed for these families — consisting mostly of women and their children — and today, the Financial Opportunity Center officially opens.
The new center, through the PEC, will help residents improve their finances through education, coaching, job placement programs, public benefits and more.
“We’re helping people break through that financial barrier,” said Farah Jimenez, PEC president and CEO. “Some of these people never had a bank account. We help them remove their fears.”
These financial help tools were always a part of PEC but had never before been “coordinated in an integrated fashion,” Jimenez said.
“Now, what we’re really looking at is sitting down and providing a deliberate plan,” she added. "If you come into the center, we’re going to also have a conversation about where you are in your financial life plan and coaching that part of it."
And all of this comes just in time for President Barack Obama’s announcement that the Mantua neighborhood in West Philadelphia is now a “Promise Zone” — one of five communities in the United States selected to get resources that will help cut through red tape.
This doesn’t necessarily mean aid money but it gives neighborhoods an extra boost when applying for community grants.
“One of the key goals in the Promise Zone,” Jimenez said, “is to increase employment and job opportunity. The Promise Zone at its core is also about collaboration.” PEC has teamed up with other local groups like Drexel University volunteer centers to implement the strategy.
Marketing is key too, said Jimenez. “How we collaborate means we can share with people more. We’re looking to do much more coordination in terms of marketing in the neighborhood.”
This means creating an online catalog of resources that is available to the community, text message alerts of festivals, volunteer opportunities and more, and also, door-to-door meetings.
Today, at 10:30 a.m., PEC and other community partners and residents are participating in a Employer Resource Fair at 3750 Lancaster Ave. for a “rocket launch” signifying opportunity for residents to launch their careers at the new Financial Opportunity Center.