William Dunbar, Democratic candidate for state representative of the 177th District, learned a lot after knocking on every door in its 66 divisions.
After speaking to the children and parents behind those 12,000 doors, he came to a realization.
“I noticed that there were so many kids, and not enough summer programs,” he said.
The optimistic runner is only the third opponent to run against State Rep. John Taylor, a Republican who’s had the district seat for 27 years. The district’s coverage area includes Port Richmond, Bridesburg, Fishtown and parts of Juniata and Wissinoming.
And though the days of summer are coming to a close, Dunbar and his committee held a “Back to School Giveaway” program Saturday, Aug. 25 at the Samuel Recreational Center in Port Richmond, at 3539 Gaul St.
“This community has been deprived of resources,” said Dunbar, who lives in Port Richmond.
In an effort to combat that, he originally promised the first 100 kids in attendance free school supplies for the new school year, but because he refused to turn anyone away, that number reached closer to 250.
A father to three boys, Dunbar said he knows firsthand how important it is to be ready for the first day of school.
“This is the first of many events, “ said the Democratic candidate. “It’s important to get the children back to school with the necessary supplies so that next week they can start a healthy school year.”
Dunbar and his committee picked up school supply lists from local Catholic and public schools, and kids walked away that day with folders and notebooks, pens and pencils, rulers, crayons and glue sticks.
Johanna Giles, whose daughter Shayla, 10, will attend Commonwealth Connections Academy, a free state sponsored cyber school, said she sees Dunbar around the neighborhood often.
“I’ve seen him campaign around the area. He pounds the pavement, he’s true to his word,” Giles said.
“It’s time for a change in this area,” says Dunbar in between talking and laughing with some of the children and parents in attendance. “We are the forgotten about place. A lot of these families have been around for generations, and they need a new voice. They’ve heard the same one for a long time.”
Dunbar is confident that the people of the River Wards will be behind him.
“I’ve enlisted in a lot of friends and young people… we’re going to probably be outspent by the Republicans three times over, but we’re going to out walk them,” Dunbar said.
His platform, he said, is simple. He intends to start by educating the workforce.
“An educated workforce will bring corporations back to the community,” he said, adding that he wants people to truly care about their community, to be proud of what’s around them, and believes that community interest and pride will bring about a decrease in crime.
“People know when you’re genuine, and this is me telling them that somebody cares about them in this community,” he said.
Reporter Nikki Volpicelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.