There have always been groups, organizations and people simply helping those in need, but with the current pandemic situation, that sentiment certainly has been heightened. Take Brandywine Realty Trust: Most Philadelphians around the city know the business as being involved in real estate transactions, which they are, but most recently, Brandywine—through their partnership with Mount Vernon Manor in Mantua and Centennial Parkside CDC and a few of their restaurant tenants including the Garces Group, Matt and Maries, Pagano’s and Walnut Street Café—have been able to supply 12,770 meals and counting to underserved communities in Philadelphia. By the end of the summer, the program is aiming to serve a total of 13,600.
“Brandywine is not just a big realty company buying up Philadelphia—this is a company that cares,” says Lorraine Gomez, who works in Mount Vernon Manor’s Community Development Corporation.
Brandywine and Mount Vernon Manor have been partners together for over a decade since 2005, and both groups work together with the Schuylkill Yards. Together, the organizations have been able to serve meals through the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Centennial Parkside Community Development Corp., Chosen 3000 homeless services and People’s Emergency Center.
“Brandywine has made it so much better,” says Gomez. “They provided us with heat and serve meals. We have a lot of seniors who can’t cook, people with disabilities, people who are essential workers and work all hours of the night, so when they showed up and had ready to serve meals, that was like a blessing. I can’t even begin to tell you. Mantua is a food desert, so anything that is fresh is needed, people [there] are used to eating processed everything.”
This all was able to happen through Brandywine’s restaurant tenants as well, who were able to bring in more donations and help supply the food that underserved areas in our city so desperately need.
“Brandywine Realty Trust is Matt & Marie’s landlord in Center City’s business district,” says Marie Capp, owner of the hotspot sandwich shop Matt & Marie’s. “Matt & Marie’s has been preparing food donations from scratch since May for communities in need all around Philadelphia [and] prepares meals from scratch for elderly communities and communities in-need that do not have access to nearby grocery stores. Despite a crushing blow to my two local businesses, I have realized that we are all in this together. Both large and small businesses, owners and employees alike, must work together to support one another if we are going to survive.”
That “we’re in this together” mentality is the exact fuel many need to go out and not only fight for their own business to survive, but to also make sure Philadelphia heals together as a city. That starts by helping those who need it most, because in times of need it can be easy to forget that there are still others out there who may be less fortunate.
Brandywine’s meal program began with the proceeds raised from an Employee GoFundMe, which helped rake in $20,000, which then, according to a release, Brandywine added a $30,000 corporate match to. Following the initial success of the program to meet community needs, Brandywine also seeded it with an additional $140,000.
There are ways that Philadelphians themselves can help, too.
“The psychological toll of COVID has been just as bad as the financial impact. Feelings of uncertainty and lack of purpose is a plague that we all must fight to overcome,” says Capp. “Donating meals (made by local businesses) to organizations that have structured distributions, like Ronald McDonald House or Parkside CDC, is a major way to help. Raising funds from neighbors or within your firm to purchase meals from a local business is helping on two fronts. You are supporting both the business and its employees, as well as the community at-large. Thousands of businesses will not make it past the next 6-12 months because of COVID. Grants will run out, loans will be more than owners can handle, and business from customers will not be plentiful enough to cover basic costs. If you are a small business, reach out and make efforts to help your community even if you are hurting. Larger businesses like Brandywine have stepped up to make this possible, and I hope more follow in their stead.”
For Mount Vernon Manor specifically, whose mission is to help people through affordable housing, food and rent, that ideology certainly resonates.
“Our mission changed once COVID-19 hit, and right now, we are just trying to fit the needs of the community and its food,” says Gomez. “[Brandywine] did not have to help us at all. Not only are they helping the people in Mantua, they are helping my community in East Parkside. They didn’t wait until we asked, you came up with the idea and reached out to your tenants and made it happen. We are so grateful, I can’t even begin to tell you. I have families with 9 or 10 kids who have not been able to eat had they not stepped up. Brandywine is not just here to make money, they are here to help people.”
Metro is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at brokeinphilly.org or follow on Twitter at @BrokeInPhilly.