by Sue Ann Rybak
Elfant Wissahickon Realtors in conjunction with Martin Elfant, Inc., Class Abstract, Northwest Abstract, and Direct Mortgage Loan Co. have pledged to raise $30,000 for Face to Face Germantown, a not-for-profit human services organization, as part of its 2014 Anti-poverty Initiative.
Face to Face Germantown, 109 East Price St., provides numerous services to individuals and families living in deep poverty.
Bob Elfant, 62, co-founder of Elfant Wissahickon, said the companies were celebrating a successful year and wanted to find a way to give back to the community.
“Our real estate company had record sales in 2013,” Elfant said. “It was the best year in our company’s history.
Elfant said the partners of the company, along with those at Martin Elfant, Inc. decided to structure a campaign to raise money to combat the rising poverty rate in Philadelphia.
According to a recent article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia’s poverty rate is at a historic high of 26 percent.
Elfant said he recently read an article published in the Local entitled “Face to Face uses art to build self-esteem” about Wyndmoor resident Mickey Leone, who recently revived Face to Face Germantown’s adult arts program earlier this year.
He said Face to Face Germantown’s mission to treat people with dignity and respect – “people who may not often get treated by the rest of their world with dignity and respect” really “hit home” with him.
According to a 2012 Pew Research Initiative Report, “26 percent of East Germantown residents live in deep poverty,” which can be defined as a single person having an annual income of less than $5,700, or a family of four living on less than $11,700 a year.
Susan O’Hagan Marley, director of Development for Face to Face Germantown, said Elfant and his partners are very committed to being part of the solution.
“Face to Face Germantown restores the humanity of people by allowing them to be part of a community that values them,” O’Hagan Marley said. “A community that doesn’t judge, that doesn’t measure and values them where they are, even with all the problems they have.”
O’Hagan Marley said last year, the organization served a record number of 30,310 meals in 2013 – an increase of 46 percent over 2012. She added that the recent cuts of $5 billion in the food stamp program (SNAP) in November 2013 exacerbated the need for services.
“We try to care for the person holistically,” O’Hagan Marley said. “Our approach is holistic but it all starts with hunger, because when you are hungry nothing else matters.”
But Face to Face Germantown is more than just a dining room. It offers art and writing classes, health and legal clinics, computer training and children’s programs. It also has a “Washeteria,” a place where people can take a shower and receive a new set of clothes.
O’Hagan Marley said without the support of businesses like Elfant Wissahickon Realtors, they would have to close their doors.
“They [Elfant Wissahickon Realtors and their partners] were looking for a way to give back to the community and the feeling was that it’s best to give back to those right in your own backyard,” O’Hagan Marley said.
Elfant said the agents and owners of Elfant Wissahickon Realtors will donate funds every time someone does business with the company. He added that Aurora Financial Group, Inc., Mortgage Master, Inc. and First Choice Loan Services, the preferred lenders of Elfant Wissahickon have agreed to make donations each time a buyer client of Elfant Wissahickon secures a mortgage. In addition, Northwest and Class Abstract are making a contribution for each title insurance policy placed.
The goal is to raise $30,000 which will be distributed evenly over a three-year period.
Mary Kay Meeks-Hank, executive director of Face to Face Germantown, said “the infusion of money from Elfant and his partners” will enable them to increase services to the parents of the children enrolled in their afterschool and summer programs.
“It’s a great way to holistically address the needs of a family through the children when they first come,” Meeks-Hank said. “It enables us to uplift the whole family unit by providing them access to other services available through Face to Face in Germantown’s health center, legal center, dining room or social services.
“We are very grateful for this opportunity,” Meeks-Hank said. “It’s very dynamic partnership. Elfant and his business partners are truly committed to making a difference in the long term.”
During the school year, Face to Face Germantown offers an after school program from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., which is staffed by certified teachers and three aids. Due to building maintenance, O’Hagan Marley said the program was on “hiatus,” but thanks to Elfant Wissahickon and their business partners the after school program will resume in mid-April.
But both Elfant Wissahickon Realtors and Martin Elfant, Inc. have pledged to do more than just give money, they have agreed to do volunteer work at the community center.
“Sometimes it’s easier to give money but when you couple that with time well spent – it’s much more meaningful,” Elfant said.
Elfant said whenever he thinks about the initiative he gets excited.
“This is something that will make a difference in the community and it’s something we are all going to participate in together,” he said. “If you want to talk about something that feeds the soul, this is it.”
If you would like to make a donation to Face to Face in Germantown go to facetofacegermantown.org or call 215-849-0179.