By Devin Hunter | Member Relations Coordinator
This month we interviewed Betsy McBride from UrbanPromise in Camden, NJ. UrbanPromise began their Food Co-Op in November 2014,to answer the need for food for residents in the East Camden – West Pennsauken neighborhood of Delaware Gardens. Camden remains a food desert. UrbanPromise strives to help families with free food weekly, so they can use their limited funds to pay other bills
PHLB: In 29 years, your organization has grown exponentially, what is your secret to success?
UP: A commitment to all aspects of youth development – education, life management, spiritual growth and leadership development
PHLB: In addition to your Food Co-Op, what other ways does your agency fulfill your mission to equip children and young adults with the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, spiritual growth, and leadership?
UP: We seek to fulfill our mission through several after-school and summer camps, two schools, job training, experiential learning, and a host of other programs that challenge youth to develop and realize their potential. Unique to our vision is a commitment to involving local teens—known as StreetLeaders—in the tutoring, mentoring, and coaching of younger children in the community. By involving teens in the leadership process, UrbanPromise is creating a new generation of young, visionary leaders who embody a commitment to change their own community.
PHLB: How important are volunteers to your everyday operations, particularly as it relates to your feeding program?
UP: Volunteers are an integral part of our Food Co-Op. All of the Co-Op members volunteer four hours/month in order to build community. We open weekly to shoppers and we use volunteers to help set up, assist shoppers, and clean up.
PHLB: How has participation with Philabundance helped you provide better service to your clients?
UP: Partnering with Philabundance has allowed us to partner with a NJ grocery store for weekly pickups through the Grocers Against Hunger program. This food has been a lifesaver in more ways than one.
PHLB: Please share an uplifting client story.
UP: When we first met Horace, he was wearing three coats, had a strong body odor and was mumbling to himself. We encouraged him to come into the Co-Op and get some food. He started coming and gradually, the coats came off, he cleaned up, and became coherent. He now volunteers every week to take out the trash at the end of our distribution (which is no small task) and our other members watch out for him. Every week I take him home. Every week I get a small kiss on the cheek and a “thank you Ms. Betsy.”
PHLB: Is there any additional information you think we should know about UrbanPromise?
UP: We also host a monthly community meal on the last Saturday of the month and we do intake for legal matters each week-matching residents with pro bono lawyers.
For more information about UrbanPromise, please visit their website: http://www.urbanpromiseusa.org/.
If you are interested in being interviewed for the Member Agency Spotlight, please contact Devin Hunter, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.