The Friendship Circle Creates Friendships For People With Special Needs

“It’s a lot of joy and it helped defined the character of our family,” Chani Baram said. “It created craziness but also fun.”

Baram grew up with four younger brothers and three were diagnosed with Fragile X syndrome, which is a genetic condition that causes intellectual and learning disabilities in addition to behavioral problems.

According to Baram, her husband Rabbi Zev Baram, as a teen befriended a boy with special needs. He enjoyed the friendship and decided to enrich the lives of children and teens with special needs as an adult. Once married, the couple decided to start the Friendship Circle in the Philadelphia area.

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An Organization Provides Computer Help For The Technically Challenged

Volunteer Malcolm Shabazz on the left, and Stanley Coles, work together to refurbish a computer.

Volunteer Malcolm Shabazz on the left, and Stanley Coles, work together to refurbish a computer at Nonprofit Technology Resources.

With computers, laptops, tablets, and smart phones, everyone one has a computer and is connected to the Internet, right? Not really. According to the United States Census Bureau, 62.4 percent of the population in the United States with a household income of less than $25,000 a year owns a computer, and only 48.4 percent use the Internet. Nonprofit Technology Resources in Philadelphia aims to change that.

“Stan Pokras started it. It was originally a media idea that started in the 1970s and it was all public media and it was all about being inner-connected with one another, executive director of NTR, Caitlin Kaspar said. “As it came about he decided to make computers the main source instead of media.”

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Despite Difficulties, LGBT Catholics Remain Positive During World Meetings of Families and Pope Visit

Last weekend in Philadelphia, the World Meeting of Families was capped off by a visit from Pope Francis. It was very easy for some to participate in the WMF and papal events, but for some, it was difficult.

Equally Blessed is a coalition of four Catholic organizations across the country, which seeks to educate and inspire Catholics to take action on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, their families, and friends. Call to Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Familes, and New Ways Ministry comprises the coalition.

Members of Equally Blessed spent many months planning the pilgrimage to Philadelphia. They were concerned about issues in the Catholic Church such as gay marriage voting, people who were fired from churches because of sexual orientation, as well as other LGBT issues. Pilgrims read the Catechesis-which was written by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family-to prepare for the Eighth World Meeting of Families. The theme was Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.

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Community Service Organizations

Brandon Hobbs, Felicia Topsale Photo taken by Brandon Hobbs

Brandon Hobbs, Felicia Topsale
Photo taken by Brandon Hobbs

For the next three months, Brandon and I will publish articles to our websites about community service. We think community service is an integral part of any community or neighborhood, which provides people with a better quality of life. Since most community services are usually provided by volunteers of non-profit organizations, we feel it is important to give them the attention they deserve. Despite the availability of free and low-cost programs available in the Philadelphia area, they are not always easy to find. Whether our readers want to volunteer for an organization or utilize a program or service, it will be our job to inform them.

The Bethesda Project in Philadelphia was started over 30 years ago, and helps over 2000 women and men who deal with homelessness every year at over a dozen different locations around the city. The organization also helps people who are fighting mental illness, as well as alcohol and drug addiction. The Bethesda Project is noteworthy because the long-standing organization is large and continues to grow, despite the age of the founder of the organization who is now a senior citizen.

The Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance, also known as MANNA, delivers 3 meals a day, 7 days a week to sick patients dealing with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other types of diseases. They also offer counseling. It is newsworthy because it is the only organization of its kind in the Philadelphia area.

The Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society, also known as PAWS, rescues unwanted pets and takes them to no-kill shelters, as well as provides them with medical care. The organization also helps pets find a foster home or adoptive parent. The organization just opened their third and newest location in Northeast Philly.

Programs Employing People serves people with intellectual disabilities in Philadelphia to strengthen their abilities in employment, transportation, education, and social opportunities. PEP was founded by mothers and neighbors to offer a summer program to help their intellectually disabled children. This organization helps about 300 adults and children every year.

House of Umoja was created to end gang violence. The organization caused 80 gangs to pledge peace by using the IMANI PACT in 1974. It was a standard used as an agreement that anyone who violated it would be considered an outcast. The gangs are still at peace today and have made a huge impact on ending gang violence.

Here are the story ideas Brandon and I have discussed:

  • The Mazzoni Center offers open door counseling for the LGBTQ community. The fees for the service are on a sliding scale based on income. They also offer free STD and rapid HIV testing. We would like to report on the effectiveness and success of the services they offer as well as find out how the legalization of gay marriage has affected counseling services and the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia. We would like to have photos of buildings as well as employees, and interview employees as well as people utilizing the center’s services. We also want to learn how the Mazzoni Center got started.

Behavioral Services Director, Judy Morrissey, 267-888-5020

  • Tent 13, the Philadelphia Chapter of Variety, serves children with various disabilities through education, social, and recreational activities. We would like to find out more about the programs available and how the programs have enriched the lives of children and their families. We also want to write about all the services available to children as well as interview the volunteers who help the children overcome obstacles. We want to photograph and shoot video of the kids while spending time with volunteers and ask kids and their parents how they became involved with Tent 13. We would like to interview directors, volunteers, children, and their parents and learn why they all believe in Tent 13.

Program Director, Jean Merkl, 610-584-4366 ext. 201

  • Non-Profit Technology Resources works with various organizations all over the city, including schools, religious groups, teachers and welfare programs, to make sure people have access to information technology. The organization also provides training to understand and use technology. They also have a computer thrift shop. Brandon and I would like to know how this organization has impacted and helped the community. Does it change people’s lives? How is the organization funded? Do they get grants? We would like to get photo and video of people using the computers, in computer classes, and interviews with teachers, and volunteers. We would like to ask volunteers why they volunteer and what kind of computer training they have.

Executive Director, Steven Feldman, 215-564-6686

  • The West Philadelphia Senior Community Center (WPCC) is an organization that allows Philadelphia citizens ages 50 and up to attend events and activities. What we will be researching is how it keeps the members feeling young, and how it may keep their minds sharp. We would also interview the volunteers and director of the organization to see how volunteering and working there may help them in their own lives.

Director Pat Stanley, 215-386-0379

  • Turning Points for Children is an organization that supports families with raising their children. They do this by working with caregivers to develop and strengthen protective qualities and offering the resources they need to ensure their children’s optimal development. They also help families through programs that help prevent child abuse and neglect. We would find out how this improves family bonding and if the volunteers can apply any of the practices on their own families. Brandon and I would also like to know if they ever had any difficult times trying to help families with their children.

Program Director Louise Lebowitz , 215-875-4963

An Evening with Calkins Media: A Temple University Round Table Discussion

Discussion panel at Calkins Media round table.

Discussion panel at Calkins Media round table.

At 5:30 p.m. Monday evening, on September 14, students of the School of Communications gathered at Temple University’s Annenberg Hall to have a round table discussion with three Calkins Media executives about the future of journalism, as well as internships and job opportunities available with Calkins Media.

Calkins Media Incorporated is headquartered in Bucks County, Pa and has media, TV news studios, and shares news through digital and mobile devices. Calkins Media has audiences totaling over 3 million in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Alabama, and Florida. It is a family owned and run company that was established in 1937.

During the round table discussion, students were very quiet as executives introduced themselves and shared their career history, current job title with Calkins media, and what kind of employees their company looked for.

Stanley Ellis, who sits on the board of directors, explained that since the company was founded in the late 1930s, it was very important to keep up with the latest technology and social media platforms. He mentioned that young people were needed and that he was excited about the current generation about to graduate from Temple University.

“We need new thinking and new ideas if we are going to be successful,” said Ellis.

Shane Fitzgerald, an executive editor passionately discussed all of the different positions and locations available for Temple Students as interns, as well as college graduates.

“There’s a lot of room for growth,” said Fitzgerald.

He encouraged students to think of jobs outside of their immediate area and to consider moving to another state to work, which will allow them to learn and grow so they can have a better future for their careers.

Both Fitzgerald and Ellis discussed what it was like to report on news stories such as the Columbine massacre and the time former U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney accidently shot a man while hunting. They both felt dealing with people in the community during breaking stories brought out a lot of compassion in the journalists and it was something to be very proud to be a part of.

“It’s the sense of community that keeps journalism going,” added Dr. Carolyn Kitch, who is the chair of the journalism department at Temple.

I questioned the panel about making the transition from working as a magazine editor, to hopefully working as a broadcast journalist with a TV show about food someday.

“Find what you are passionate about and the rest will follow. Don’t worry about the plan,” said Dr.Kitch.

The rest of the panel agreed.

There were many more questions the students asked. The round table discussion ended in about an hour, followed by networking and socializing over pizza.

I asked students what they thought of the discussion.

“Very informative. I liked how they brought in a lot of people to ask them questions,” Alanna Gentle, a journalism student said.

“I thought it was interesting because I never thought much about working in local news,” said Gabby Szcepanek, a media studies and production student.

A lot of students who attended the event, got what they came for.