Citizens Bank executives presented a $100,000 donation to Drexel University March 1 to kickstart University-led civic engagement projects. The donation will help establish the Growing Communities Initiative, which will be housed in the Dana and David Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships.
Citizens Bank President and CEO Daniel Fitzpatrick and Senior Vice President and Director of Public Affairs Henri Moore met with Drexel President John A. Fry and Vice Provost Lucy Kerman. Kerman’s work at Drexel focuses on University and community partnerships. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., and Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell were also in attendance.
In his opening remarks, Fry said, “These things only work when you can build concentric circles of institutional partners who share your vision within these neighborhoods and who believe in Drexel, and that’s why I’m so thankful to have Citizens Bank and Citizens Bank Foundation.”
Citizens Bank is the inspiration behind the new program, which began when Fitzpatrick approached Drexel expressing his support for Drexel’s priority in community building.
“It’s an opportunity to interact on a volunteer basis and help people. Good banking, good citizenship — that’s what it’s all about,” Fitzpatrick said. He also applauded Drexel for its constant integration and emphasis of work and education both on campus and in the community.
Drexel will partner with local nonprofits to increase financial literacy, build wealth and start small businesses in the area. Fry said the initiative is the perfect fit for Drexel’s emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation.
“The work that we’re going to do all together, as a single family, in our house, is really going to be tremendous. And so this is a great day, but the best is yet to come,” Fry said.
Services at the Dornsife Center are free for community members in Mantua, Powelton Village and West Powelton and are intended to rejuvenate these neighborhoods that surround Drexel. Services include help with tax filing, GED test preparation, housing intake clinics, estate planning clinics, and a criminal record expungement project.
DeWayne Drummond, manager of the Civic Association, member of the 24th Ward Democratic Executive Committee and a Mantua resident, is excited for the initiative’s plan to increase financial literacy. Drummond said, “[The initiative] will engage residents to come together in Mantua and Powelton and to take the resources and make households stronger.”
Odessa Mitchell, who is a neighborhood resident and the director and co-founder of Unique Miracles Drill Team, is excited to see the neighborhood “come alive again.” She said Drexel’s commitment to the community shows residents that “they mean business” and said the partnership is “going to give our youth a better chance in the long run.”
Drexel’s presence in the community will also offer other resources to community members. For instance, Mitchell is confident that Drexel will be able to help her obtain a facility for her drill team practices so they won’t have to practice outside during the winter.
The donation was presented at an open house at the Dornsife Center. In his opening remarks, Fry thanked the Dornsife and Lindy families for their continuous support and contributions to Drexel’s civic engagement priorities. Drexel recently acquired the property on the 3500 block of Spring Garden Street and began renovations Feb. 1. The Center began offering services March 1.