As thousands of people in the River Wards community struggle to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fishtown Kensington Area Business Improvement District is working to help make the lives of certain essential workers and business owners easier through three programs: 5 for Fishtown, the 26th Police District meal program and the recently announced Fishtown Heroes initiative.
“The underlying goal of these three initiatives is two fold,” said the BID’s executive director, Marc Collazzo. “It’s to help our current stakeholders, businesses and enterprises so it keeps them solvent to get through this crisis. It’s also a way to reward those groups who have gone above and beyond to get people through this crisis.”
The Fishtown Heroes initiative, which was just announced on Wednesday, encourages the public to send meals to workers at Lutheran Settlement House. During the course of the pandemic, Lutheran Settlement House has continued to offer critical services to children, adults and families, including its food pantry, domestic violence assistance, online adult education classes and shelter for those in need.
“These heroes do their work in anonymity and do not seek praise,” reads the BID’s announcement, “but we are privileged to have them as a stakeholder of the Fishtown District and it is our way to thank them for making our community a better place.”
The executive director of Lutheran Settlement House, David Chiles, called the gesture “a kind and touching offer.”
“While some of our work, like our domestic violence counselling, [is] now being done virtually, we still have staff working in our food pantry, delivering meals to seniors and running our shelter for families experiencing homelessness,” he said. “I know they will greatly appreciate this offer.”
To participate in the program, residents can contact any of the open eating establishments in the BID (there’s a list of what’s open on the fishtownbid.org website), and let the workers there know they’d like the food sent to Lutheran Settlement House. To arrange any deliveries directly with Lutheran, Chiles can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-426-8610.
However, Collazzo said that the BID was open to expanding the program to other organizations that deserve the acknowledgment as well, and is actively searching for suggestions. (Collazzo can be reached at email@example.com.)
The 26th District meal program, which encourages neighborhood residents to purchase meals for the district’s officers, was so successful it had to be scaled back because the police district had an abundance of food, Collazzo said.
“We were so successful that Sgt. [John] Massi asked us to [scale it back],” said Collazzo. “These brave men and women are making sure vacant businesses are secure and making sure things like graffiti and quality-of-life issues are addressed and keeping us safe.”
The 26th district’s captain, William Fisher, was appreciative of the gesture.
“The 26th District greatly appreciates the meals that have been provided to us by the local businesses during the COVID 19 pandemic,” he said in an email to the Star. “The support we have received from the community during this difficult time has been overwhelming. I would like to thank all those involved for their kindness and generosity.”
“These officers are working many extra hours,” said Collazzo. “This is how we can show thanks and gratitude for what they’re doing … It makes us feel good that so many of our residents and patrons want to help and say thank you to our local police.”
The last program, 5 for Fishtown, is an initiative that encourages residents to purchase five $10 gift cards to businesses within the Fishtown/Kensington business corridor, in an effort to help keep business stakeholders afloat during the pandemic.
“You’re really helping a business stay afloat,” Collazzo said. “These are really the things that make our commercial corridors so special. It’s why everybody wants to live, work, shop and play here.”
Collazzo said the BID has gotten a lot of positive feedback from businesses.
“This is a way we can help as many of our business stakeholders as possible,” he said.