Six local churches brighten the new year for workers

Here is what grass roots organizing can do for our community.

Chestnut Hill United Church, Mishkan Shalom Synagogue, Germantown Jewish Center, St. Vincents, Grace Epiphany Episcopal Church and the Church of St. Martin in the Fields collaborated for two years in an organization of 43 Jewish, Christian and Muslim Congregations working for a living wage for workers at the Philadelphia Airport.

We won! Moreover, we laid the groundwork for a bigger “Living Wage” initiative for spring 2014. How was this possible? Membership in Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER) gave us the capacity to make positive change.

First, let us celebrate the recent success!

Starting next year, the City of Philadelphia will require a base wage of $10.88/hr in new contracts with food and retail businesses at Philadelphia International Airport. This higher “living wage” standard will increase pay for roughly 1,500 workers. These new contracts will also require food and retail subcontractors to provide health care and paid sick days, bringing them in line with the City’s existing 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefits Standard that applies to businesses with city contracts. Currently, the average wage of Airport concessions workers is $8.83/hr., keeping them below poverty line.

“With the new contracts, these hardworking families will see $4,300 more every year in income said POWER Leader the Rev. Jarrett Kerbel. “We applaud the city’s choice to take steps towards ending poverty and building a city of opportunity that works for all.”

Advocating for living wage, family-sustaining airport jobs has been part of POWER’s economic justice agenda since 2011; POWER now aims to push for living wages for all workers employed by firms subcontracted to perform city business.

“It shouldn’t be the responsibility of government programs to help working people get food on the table,” said Pati Krasensky, a POWER Leader from St. Vincent’s Catholic Church in Germantown referring to the fact that a majority of subcontracted Airport workers must turn to food stamps or other public assistance to make ends meet. “It is the responsibility of the profitable companies that employ them to pay a living wage.”

Our next POWER campaign will be a mobilization to pass a referendum on the May municipal ballot that will ask voters to affirm City Council’s power to extend the 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefits Standard to all subcontracted workers employed by city-subsidized projects.

People of good will, seeking the common good and fairness for all of our neighbors can organize together to effect positive change. People can work across religious divisions and find common cause in our shared values and our love for our city.

This action creates hope and opportunity and drives despair and cynicism away. If you would like to be a powerful part of this grass roots movement and bring your congregation into the work, please contact our clergy or leaders in the congregations mentioned above.

What a powerful gift to give for the New Year – a wage that respects the human dignity of every worker!

The Rev. Jarrett Kerbel

The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields


Thanks for a good fund-raising night

On behalf of the Chestnut Hill Community Fund, many thanks to the Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant for its support of this year’s fund drive through its Give 20 program.

The restaurant donated over $300 to the drive, 20 percent of the over $1,500 worth of food bills of supporters of the fund last Tuesday. Thanks in particular to administrative assistant Joanna Bojanowski for her efficiency and cooperation in setting up the Give 20 night—and thanks to all who came out to Iron Hill in support of the fund. Every dollar earned or contributed is another dollar for the many dedicated non profits that support and enrich our community.

Laura Lucas and Bob Fles

Co-Chairs of the Community Fund Drive Committee


Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy: Thanks

On Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, The Eye Institute’s “Looking Out for Kids” charity fundraiser was held on the campus of Salus University in Elkins Park. The dollars raised at the charity event pay for comprehensive vision care and eyeglasses to uninsured children in Philadelphia and its surrounding communities. As the vision care practice of Salus University, The Eye Institute and the care provided to hundreds of children every year would not be possible without a successful fund raiser.

I want to acknowledge the kindness and generosity of the businesses in the Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy community. Every year the response to our requests for silent auction donations and in-kind support is answered by this community, helping to ensure a financially successful event.

With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, it’s all too fitting to remember the wisdom of his words: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

My heartfelt thank you to: Cheekadee Makeup Artist, Chestnut Hill Business Association, Chestnut Hill Hotel, Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant, Diamond Spa, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, McNally’s Tavern, Profiles Studio, The Antique Gallery, Roller’s Flying Fish Restaurant, Trolley Car Diner, Windfall Gallery, Woodmere Museum, Zipf’s Candies and The Tavern on the Hill.

Dr. Susan Oleszewski

“Looking Out for Kids” Committee 

The Eye Institute of Salus University