Grant funds, provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, will support 2 new “impact volunteering” initiatives to tackle blight and low literacy in Philadelphia 


Philadelphia, October 22, 2012 – Cities of Service announced that it has awarded the City of Philadelphia a $100,000 grant to implement service initiatives designed to address the issues of blight and literacy. Philadelphia is one of 18 U.S. cities to be awarded grants to support mayors who are harnessing the power of volunteers in a strategic way to address priority problems.


“In the wake of the recession, the City of Philadelphia has increased civic engagement and volunteerism to tackle pressing issues,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “Being one of 18 recipients of the Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund gives us the opportunity to mobilize Philadelphians to tackle systemic problems in a high-impact and measurable way. I continue to be impressed with the scale at which Bloomberg Philanthropies is helping mayors across the country implement this strategic approach to volunteerism.”


Philadelphia’s grant totaling $100,000 will support two volunteer initiatives in the City: PhillyRising CREATES and Technology Today Tutors.


The first initiative, PhillyRising CREATES, will engage and support citizens to take back blighted spaces and transform them into vibrant hubs of community activity. Over 18 months, PhillyRising CREATES will engage volunteers to support residents in ten neighborhoods currently served by the PhillyRising Collaborative. Volunteers will identify and clean a blighted space, design and install a mural, and coordinate a process for hosting ongoing community activities in the newly revitalized space.  PhillyRising CREATES is a joint initiative of the PhillyRising Collaborative, Philadelphia Mural Arts, Home Depot, and the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service.


“Mural Arts is delighted and honored to be part of this collaboration,” said Executive Director, Jane Golden.  “Together we will be a bridge between civic capacity, public art and community revitalization. Over the years we have seen the catalytic power of art; now, working with others, we can build on our foundation and do much more.  This initiative will demonstrate how much Philadelphians care about public spaces, and the power of creativity and how important it is to honor the voice of citizens in determining their future.”


PhillyRising CREATES provides a great opportunity to leverage the great work already being done in neighborhoods,” said John Farrell, Director of the PhillyRising Collaborative.  “Reviving public spaces is important because it brings together communities and get residents excited about taking ownership of their neighborhood in a visible way.”


The second initiative, Technology Today Tutors, will engage volunteer tutors in helping adult learners develop literacy skills while building digital fluency. This innovate initiative is born of a strategic collaboration between the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy, the Freedom Rings Partnership, Drexel University, and the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Services.


“Computer literacy is now a basic literacy for everyone,” said Dr. Judith Rényi, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy.  “This project will help us leverage volunteers to achieve a critically important goal, which is to make sure that all adult literacy and English language learners get to practice their digital skills so they can function as adults in our society, get jobs, and succeed.  I can’t imagine anything more important to do for the people of this City.”


“Drexel is thrilled to partner with the City of Philadelphia on the Technology Today Tutors initiative,” said Lucy Kerman, Vice Provost for University and Community Partnerships.  “It’s part of our mission and effort to help improve our communities and grow the economy – across the City with our KEYSPOT partners and particularly for Drexel’s neighbors in Powelton and Mantua with strong partners such as Peoples Emergency Center — through technology and continuing education. We believe in working with our neighbors and empowering them through education and helping them to be the educators for their peers; which is exactly what this project is about.”


The Cities of Service model focuses on “impact volunteering” – volunteer strategies that target community needs, use best practices, and set clear outcomes and measures to gauge progress. Dozens of cities across the nation have adopted the model since its introduction in 2009. Using this approach, New York City has coated more than 4 million square feet of rooftops to reduce carbon emissions by 745 metric tons, Nashville has upgraded more than 240 homes to increase energy efficiency and help the city recover from historic floods, and Pittsburgh has removed 20,000 pounds of litter to revitalize its neighborhoods.


About Cities of Service

American cities face serious challenges and many mayors want to take advantage of every resource available to them – including the time and energy of public-spirited residents – to address those challenges. But in cities across America today, citizen service is often an underutilized or inefficiently utilized strategy by municipal governments. Founded in September 2009, Cities of Service supports mayors to leverage citizen service strategies, addressing local needs and making government more effective.


About the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service

The Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service partners with other City entities and a range of public and private sector partners to strategically engage volunteers in ways that advance the well being of all Philadelphians, particularly in the areas of education, youth engagement, food security and community revitalization.  For more information, please visit:

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