CORA’s success

Nora Cooper, (right) Dir­ect­or of CORA’s Early Years pre-school pro­gram, and Traci Nagele-Balco; Man­ager of Early Years. CORA Ser­vices is cel­eb­rat­ing 40 years in Septem­ber.

CORA Ser­vices, the Ro­man Cath­ol­ic so­cial-ser­vices agency on Ver­ree Road in Fox Chase, will be 40 years old in Novem­ber. In its four dec­ades, CORA has grown in scope, but its mis­sion has re­mained help­ing chil­dren and fam­il­ies cope with the com­plex­it­ies of mod­ern life.

CORA’s ser­vices take sev­er­al forms, in­clud­ing day care, coun­sel­ing, help with drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tions, ca­reer guid­ance and edu­ca­tion­al and speech as­sist­ance.

One of CORA’s key goals is help­ing young wo­men deal with their un­planned preg­nan­cies.

Dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view, Sis­ter Nora Den­nehy, who runs CORA’s Life­line pro­gram, re­called talk­ing with a young Vi­et­namese wo­man who was think­ing of get­ting an abor­tion be­cause she was afraid to tell her par­ents she was preg­nant.

Sis­ter Nora per­suaded the wo­man to not only tell her par­ents, but to have her baby and fin­ish her own edu­ca­tion. The wo­man took part in CORA’s Life­line pro­gram.

“She nev­er missed any of her pren­at­al classes,” Sis­ter Nora said. 

Helped by CORA dur­ing her preg­nancy, the wo­man went on to fin­ish her school­ing and got a full schol­ar­ship to col­lege. She now is a teach­er and lives in the North­east, Sis­ter Nora said.

There have been plenty of those suc­cess stor­ies in the 28 years CORA has been aid­ing preg­nant wo­men in hav­ing their ba­bies and im­prov­ing their lives. It is wo­men help­ing one an­oth­er, Sis­ter Nora said.

She es­tim­ated that 2,000 young wo­men, most of them teen­agers, have been helped. “There are two-hun­dred new cases a year” at Life­line, she said. Some give their chil­dren up for ad­op­tion, but most keep their ba­bies, she said.

One of the most im­port­ant parts of the pro­gram, she said, is re­mov­ing the feel­ing of be­ing alone. The girls’ par­ents are in­volved. 

“I have monthly meet­ings with par­ents,” Sis­ter Nora said.

Kar­en Dav­is went through the Life­line pro­gram when she was preg­nant with her daugh­ter in 1998. 

“I got coun­sel­ing and sup­port,” she said, adding that she was shown how to draw on her cour­age and build her self-es­teem,

“If not for the en­cour­age­ment of Sis­ter Norah, I prob­ably would have giv­en up,” she said.

The Good Shep­herd Sis­ters, with the help of a small state grant, foun­ded CORA Ser­vices as a com­munity coun­sel­ing cen­ter in 1971. Over the years, CORA, which stands for Coun­sel­ing Or Re­fer­ral As­sist­ance, has grown to of­fer many ser­vices while main­tain­ing a fo­cus on help­ing chil­dren and fam­il­ies over­come prob­lems at school, in their neigh­bor­hoods or in their homes.

“If we can’t help you, we will make sure you still get the help you need,” said CEO Jim Har­ron.

In its first year, CORA had a $135,000 budget, and the plan was to help 300 fam­il­ies. In­stead, CORA’s coun­selors saw more than 600 fam­il­ies.

Today, the agency spends more than $11 mil­lion an­nu­ally and has a staff of more than 200 coun­selors, edu­cat­ors and psy­cho­lo­gists. More than 25,000 fam­il­ies par­ti­cip­ate in one or more of CORA’s pro­grams.

One of those pro­grams is the Equal Part­ner­ship in Change Stake­hold­ers groups, one of which, the North­east EPIC Stake­hold­ers, op­er­ates in Frank­ford.

EPIC’s op­er­at­ing idea is to get people in­volved in neigh­bor­hood activ­it­ies. North­east EPIC meets monthly at Aria Health’s Frank­ford cam­pus. Its co­ordin­at­or is at­tor­ney Kim­berly Wash­ing­ton, who is from Frank­ford. The monthly ses­sions of­ten provide res­id­ents in­form­a­tion about the ser­vices that are avail­able to them.

“The most sat­is­fy­ing part of my job is be­ing able to help people who live and work in the neigh­bor­hood where I grew up,” Wash­ing­ton said.

CORA provides fam­il­ies with safe and struc­tured pro­grams for their kids.

Things run smoothly at the preschool, but cen­ter man­ager Traci Nagele-Balco can re­call a hec­tic time on her first day on the job.

It was Sept. 11, 2001.

“Par­ents were call­ing me to make sure their kids were OK,” she said. She had to call those who hadn’t called in, be­cause CORA de­cided to close the cen­ter dur­ing the day of those ter­ror at­tacks against the na­tion.  

Mom Shar­on Quinn knows all about CORA’s Early Years preschool pro­gram. Not only does she bring her 3-year-old son Camer­on to CORA, but the East Tor­res­dale res­id­ent went there when she was little, too.

She re­calls her­self as out­go­ing and act­ive — and some­times in trouble for act­ing out of line.

“I got put in time-out,” she said, adding with a smile that she doesn’t ex­pect her boy to give any­body any trouble.

“He’s quieter than I was.” ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or

What CORA of­fers …

Or­gan­iz­a­tion type: Cath­ol­ic, private, not-for-profit so­cial ser­vices

Ad­dress: 8540 Ver­ree Road

Phone: 215-342-7660

Web ad­dress: www.coraser­


• Non-Pub­lic School Ser­vices provides coun­sel­ing and guid­ance ser­vices, read­ing and math re­medi­ation, speech, and psy­cho­lo­gic­al ser­vices to chil­dren at­tend­ing non-pub­lic schools in grades K to 12.

• Early Years Pro­gram provides nurs­ery, preschool and day-care ser­vices to fam­il­ies with chil­dren between the ages of 2-? to 6 years.    

• Com­munity Ser­vices provide coun­sel­ing and psy­cho­lo­gic­al ser­vices for in­di­vidu­als and fam­il­ies. Some areas of spe­cial­iz­a­tion in­clude teen par­ent­ing, coun­sel­ing, ther­apy, out­pa­tient al­co­hol/sub­stance ab­use treat­ment, fam­ily in­ter­ven­tion and teen preg­nancy ser­vices.  

• Neu­mann Cen­ter of­fers a com­plete read­ing and math re­medi­al pro­gram, GED pre­par­a­tion, life skills, com­puter and cler­ic­al skills, cus­tom­er ser­vice train­ing, pre-em­ploy­ment skills and em­ploy­ment place­ment as­sist­ance.

• Out of School Ser­vices — the Beacon Cen­ter at Grover Wash­ing­ton Jr. Middle School, loc­ated at B and Ol­ney Av­en­ue in North Phil­adelphia, is a school-based com­munity cen­ter that provides a safe haven for chil­dren and fam­il­ies in the com­munity. The Out of School Ser­vices di­vi­sion now in­cludes an­oth­er Beacon Cen­ter at Thur­good Mar­shall Ele­ment­ary School at 5120 N. Sixth St. In ad­di­tion to the Beacon Cen­ters, there are three After School sites loc­ated at Car­nell Ele­ment­ary School, 1100 Dever­eaux Ave.; Mor­ris­on Ele­ment­ary School, 5100 N. Third St.; and the Neu­mann Cen­ter at 1000 Or­tho­dox St. ••

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