Spirit of Generosity: Pew, Gratitude for Growth Grant, and Thanksgiving

Robert Smith
Spirit of Generosity: Pew, Gratitude for Growth Grant, and Thanksgiving

Read the full issue of the Winter 2023 News from HOME here.


In February of 2022, the Pew Charitable Trusts awarded Project HOME a five-year, $3.5M Growth Grant that, today, is accelerating the creation of more than 150 units of supportive housing, expanding access to supports and treatment for substance use disorder, strengthening Project HOME's plans for long-term sustainability, and supporting Project HOME's integration of DEI throughout every aspect of our work.  

“We’re seeing more people affected by serious behavioral health issues, mental illness and substance use,” Sister Mary Scullion told KYW when the multi-year commitment was announced. “This grant will help us to reach our goal of 1,000 units of affordable housing.” 

In the same interview Kristin Romens, project director for the Pew Fund for Health and Human Services, said that Pew sought to award Growth Grants to “tenacious organizations” that have “data and evidence of positive results… and a desire to grow.” With Inn of Amazing Mercy opening in the first year of the Growth Grant, it is clearly having its envisioned impact.  

There’s even more to the Pew and Project HOME partnership, though.  

An equally meaningful connection between Pew and Project HOME has been in place behind the scenes since 1997 through what Pew colleagues lovingly call the “David Sims Memorial Food Drive”.  

The food drive – which originally supported Project HOME’s community-focused work in the St. Elizabeth’s neighborhood and today supports the Helen Brown Community Center food pantry – got its start under the umbrella of ‘Pew Cares,’ a staff-organized and led volunteer program. 

“David was very, very convincing,” Anita Leva, senior administrative assistant with Pew’s legal affairs team, remembers. She’s referring to the late David Sims, a Grants Manager for Pew who passed away in 2019 at the age of 51. “He was very sweet, too. He would go to everyone for the food drive for the Helen Brown Community Center.”  

In addition to the joy that came with organizing, tracking, and delivering the items, Sims and Jean Dobron (who helped start the food drive 25 years ago), always “looked forward to big hugs from Helen Brown when they dropped off the donations,” according to Leva.  

To Leva and her colleagues, it wasn’t a matter of “if” the food drive would continue, but how they could carry on in Sims’ footsteps. “We all knew how fond people [at the Helen Brown Community Center] were of David,” reflects Leva. “Carrying the food drive forward and continuing it as a ‘Pew Cares’ project was the only fitting way to meet the deep need for food during Thanksgiving, and to honor David’s memory – his whole being.”  

During the throes of the first winter of the COVID-19 pandemic, the food drive took on a different format as the traditional in-office food drive wasn’t possible. Leva and her colleagues found a solution by collecting monetary donations and placing an order for food delivery. This model has continued as it allows current Pew employees in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. – and even Pew retirees – to play a meaningful role, regardless of their location.  

“We celebrate the 25 years of generosity and leadership of Pew employees,” says Terry Guerra, Project HOME’s program manager at the Helen Brown Community Center. “Each year they gladden Thanksgiving meals across Helen Brown Community Center neighborhood and supplement the healthy meals well into the winter.”  

By every measure of the word, the Pew and Project HOME partnership is bringing high-quality, sustainable, and transformational growth to neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia. 


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