By Leo Dillinger
Originally published in Manayunk Magazine. The Best of Manayunk event on March 24th benefitted both North Light and Starfinder Foundation. Click here to read about Starfinder.
Celebrating their 80th anniversary this year, North Light has been serving the Manayunk-Roxborough community since 1936. Originally called North Light Boys Club, this organization was founded by Police Captain Franklin Luckman and School Principal Anne Wright as a way to deter the neighborhood boys from vandalizing the town after school. The first community center was located in a vacant storefront at what is now Taqueria Feliz, but moved to its present location at 175 Green Lane in 1938.
Since it’s founding, North Light has expanded their programing in numerous ways. Their oldest and most well-known is their Kidzone afterschool program, which gives children the opportunity to work on homework, get tutored, make arts and crafts, and learn music. They also have summer camps for kids, teen programs that help students apply to college and find career paths, local sports programs, community classes, and emergency assistance including grants to help residents with utility bills and a bi-weekly food cupboard.
“Last year, that food cupboard distributed 120,000 pounds of food,” Director of Institutional Advancement Dana Dabek said. “To give you some perspective, I started here in 2013 and that year we gave out 80,000 pounds of food. So we serve about 1,000 people here through that program.”
Right now, there are six full-time employees, one consultant, and various part-time employees in a given season. With a budget that is 90% reliant on independent donations, North Light is always looking for fundraising opportunities over the course of the year. But it isn’t just about donating money either. The center collects canned food and nonperishable foods, donated computers and office supplies, and athletic and recreational equipment.
North Light also thrives on donated time. Last year, North Light saw an estimated 1,000 volunteers contribute more than 11,000 hours of service in various capacities. Whether it’s individuals working the food cupboard or entire companies cleaning the facility, there are numerous opportunities for residents and businesses in Manayunk to give back to the community.
“The thing that I always say to people is, ‘Come visit us. Come see what we do,’” Dana said. “Bring your kids to our playground. We want to be a true community center and I know a lot of people often feel intimidated to just come into the building because they think that our programs and services are only for specific people or you have to be enrolled in something in order to come in and that’s not true. We want people to feel comfortable. I love giving tours and I love telling people about North Light.”
Visit the Manayunk Development Corporation Contact page for full contact information.
Office: 4312 Main Street, Philadelphia, PA 19127