|First Model Neighborhood Networks Center in Pennsylvania Equips, Educates, and Empowers Others |
Philadelphia, PA—For the past 10 years, a single task has remained at the top of Montgomery Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center Director Annie Foster’s professional “to-do” list: Help people help themselves. While this item most likely appears on the to-do list of many Neighborhood Networks center directors, the manner in which the task is executed differs greatly from one director to another.
For Foster, operating an effective Neighborhood Networks center is all about empowerment, or equipping people with the necessary resources and information that enable them to achieve their own success. It is not about serving up success on a silver platter; rather, it is offering the tools that enable people to create their own success.
During her decade at the helm of the Montgomery Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center, Foster has launched a variety of programs and services that equip, educate, and empower residents and community members of all ages to accomplish more and achieve greater self-sufficiency. Now that the Montgomery Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center has achieved Model center classification, Foster has expanded her efforts to help others by including all those who dedicate their time and talent to fulfilling the mission of Neighborhood Networks.
Neighborhood Networks Director Delores Pruden (left) presented Montgomery Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center Director Annie Foster with a Model center plaque at the 2009 Regional Technical Assistance Workshop (RTAW) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Helping Residents Help Themselves
At Montgomery Townhouses, the programs offered are part of a comprehensive, onsite supportive services program that provides positive activities for adults, seniors, and youth who are residents and members of the community. Adults can build their capabilities by participating in the center’s 13-week or eight-week computer and life skills class that Foster teaches on the center’s 10 workstations. The class, which meets Mondays through Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., offers instruction on writing, communication skills, computer literacy and operation, customer service skills, life skills needed to maintain a job, and financial literacy to help students manage and maximize their income. On Friday, the computer lab is open to students, residents, and the community.
“When planning our classes, we strive to develop a marketable curriculum,” explained Foster. “We work with local businesses to identify the types of skills they are seeking in employees. We then construct a curriculum to build these skills. The curriculum strives to prepare people for today’s economy, which is very different from what it was a few years ago. People need to find their place and carve a niche for themselves. The curriculum for this class was recently modified to meet the employment needs of one of our key partners, CVS Caremark. Many of our participants are very interested in applying for jobs with CVS Caremark, and we want to equip them with the necessary skills to be competitive.”
For the past six years, the Montgomery Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center has also partnered with Pennsylvania CareerLink, a one-stop resource that connects businesses with qualified people, and people with training, jobs, and careers. Through the partnership, Foster receives a list of employment opportunities, which she posts in the center. She also shares her class schedule with the organization, and the organization refers individuals to job training classes offered at the center.
Empowering youth and providing them with the resources they need to take control of their future is also important to Foster. Foster is intimately involved in the Montgomery Townhouses afterschool program that was established in 1990 and is facilitated by Site Social Services Coordinator Hattie Stroud.
Monday through Thursday, the Montgomery Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center afterschool program serves between 15 and 20 students each day. Students participating in the program, which is offered from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., are first required to complete all homework assignments and project work before they participate in other activities. One activity that Foster has brought to the center is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Imagine Mars Project. A national arts, sciences, and technology education initiative, Imagine Mars leads students to work together with scientists, engineers, artists, and civic leaders to design and share a futuristic Mars community for 100 people. Fifteen students participated in the Montgomery Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center’s Imagine Mars program that ran from March to mid-July 2009. Foster collaborated with four Interstate Realty Management Company (IRM) Neighborhood Networks center directors to make the project successful.
“In the future, I would like to launch another type of youth science project,” said Foster. “I want to continue to spark and heighten their interest in science. Perhaps we will start some sort of ‘green’ project, maybe in the area of solar power. Whatever we do, we need to involve the youth and it has to be interactive because those are the types of programs to which they respond and in which they want to participate.”
Going Beyond the Property Lines
Foster’s quest to help people is not limited to the Montgomery Townhouses residents. Foster also opens the center to the teachers and students of a nearby Hebrew school that does not have its own computing resources. The school’s students travel to the center to attend computer classes that are conducted in the center’s computer lab.
As president of the Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks Consortium (PNNC), she continually seeks ways to help center staff identify, sustain, and expand their resources. “Being a part of a consortium is beneficial for center staff because we all bring resources to the table,” said Foster. “Since every member of a consortium wears multiple hats, it is important that the consortium is structured well. This allows us to maximize the time we do have. We may not be able to solve all of the problems we face, but together we can solve quite a few.”
As the director of a Model center, Foster is also hoping to share the lessons she has learned over the years with other centers. “I see our role as a Model center as one of helper,” expressed Foster. “We have a responsibility to help other centers secure resources and help residents help themselves. We appreciate all we have accomplished, and we are happy to share what we have learned with others. In fact, just the other day, a director from a center in Delaware called looking for some guidance. I was flattered that she called me and more than happy to help. I look forward to assisting other centers. I really enjoy it.”
For more information about Neighborhood Networks centers in Pennsylvania, contact:
Susan J. Noce
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Philadelphia Multifamily Hub
The Wanamaker Building
100 Penn Square East
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3390
David R. Kolar
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Pittsburgh Multifamily Program Center
339 Sixth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-2515
For more information about the Montgomery Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center, contact:
Montgomery Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center
1821 North 20th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19121
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Department of Housing and Urban
451 7th Street S.W.,
Washington, DC 20410
708-1112 TTY: (202)