Community leaders whipped into shape at ‘boot camp’

At last week’s first an­nu­al Block Cap­tain Boot Camp, loc­als learned how to be ef­fect­ive com­munity lead­ers.

Civic-minded res­id­ents were up early on Sat­urday for the first an­nu­al Block Cap­tain and Com­munity Lead­er Boot Camp, held at the Roberto Clem­ente Prom­ise Academy, at 122 W. Eer­ie Ave.

The event, held from 8 a.m. to noon on the sunny morn­ing of June 17, was in­ten­ded to help block cap­tains, com­munity rep­res­ent­at­ives and con­cerned loc­al res­id­ents ef­fect­ively com­mu­nic­ate with City Hall their con­cerns and is­sues in the neigh­bor­hood.

“People might say I’m crazy to hold this meet­ing at 8 a.m. on a Sat­urday,” joked City Coun­cil­wo­man Maria Quiñones-Sanc­hez (D-6th dist.) last week­end. “But look at all the people that came out. This means that they want to know.”

Quiñones-Sanc­hez’s of­fice, along with the Phil­adelphia Pre­ven­tion Part­ner­ship and the Latino Em­power­ment Al­li­ance of the Delaware Val­ley, presen­ted the event.

The coun­cil­wo­man said she wanted to do the event early on the week­end to al­low loc­als a chance to learn about how they can work with City Hall to handle loc­al is­sues, and she wanted it to be a light, fun and in­form­a­tion­al meet­ing.

Throughout the day, res­id­ents met with rep­res­ent­at­ives from vari­ous city de­part­ments, and listened to in­form­a­tion­al present­a­tions on how to or­gan­ize a block clean up or block party or util­ize city ser­vices.

“People need to have ac­cess and un­der­stand­ing to know how city ser­vices work,” said Danilo Bur­gos, zon­ing and small busi­ness rep­res­ent­at­ive for Maria Quiñones-Sanc­hez’s of­fice. “It’s all about let­ting them know how to do the ask­ing.”

Bur­gos handed out plastic re­cyc­ling bins to res­id­ents while he dis­cussed how throughout the day, people ex­pressed con­cerns over is­sues with blight and va­cant prop­er­ties in the area.

“A lot of ques­tions we hear come from prop­er­ties that have sat for a long time, in aban­don­ment,” said Bur­gos. “We hear ‘why doesn’t the city go ahead and put that in a sher­iff’s sale?’”

Bur­gos said the coun­cil­wo­man’s of­fice worked closely with Coun­cil­man Curtis Jones Jr.’s (D-4th dist.) of­fice to or­gan­ize the day as a to reach out to the com­munity.

“This is a great vehicle to get out in­form­a­tion,” he said.

As the day wound down, Steven Wade, a res­id­ent of Ju­ni­ata who works with the 33rd Demo­crat­ic Ward, said he ap­pre­ci­ated the event be­cause it provided in­form­a­tion about work­ing with the city that cla­ri­fied how to use the city’s mu­ni­cip­al of­fices and the 3-1-1 sys­tem, the hot­line that con­nects res­id­ents to City Hall.

“This is a won­der­ful thing,” said Wade. “To be­come a block cap­tain really is just the be­gin­ning of tak­ing part in your city. People think you can just get on the phone and com­plain…not enough of us are savvy about the pro­cess.”

Too of­ten, he said, qual­ity of life is­sues as simple as neigh­bor­hood blight or hav­ing a street that needs a cross­ing guard can com­plic­ate life for com­munit­ies. But by learn­ing to nav­ig­ate the sys­tem at events like last week’s, res­id­ents will be able to ef­fect­ively take the right steps to com­bat loc­al is­sues.

“You have to be vo­cal, but you also have to know all the right av­en­ues of com­mu­nic­a­tion,” he said. “This is a won­der­ful event.”

As or­gan­izers cleaned up, the coun­cil­wo­man walked through the school and re­flec­ted on the day, and said she hopes to present sim­il­ar events again to reach more of the com­munity and provide more in­form­a­tion to help en­sure that she has a well-in­formed con­stitu­ency.

“We want to be here, to let people know we are out here work­ing,” she said. “We want them to know we are here to help.”

Star Staff Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at hmit­

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