The ride up to the twelfth floor in the elevator was a wild one. I could hear loud music pumping as I was getting higher and higher upon each floor. I was standing in the penthouse of a rented out building also known as the Story Philly Church. I didn’t know what to expect when I heard of Story Philly, a non-denominational college based church located in the heart of center city on Walnut Street.
Blue and black balloons and a small crowd greeted me at the entrance by the golden doors of the building. The doors had a printed out taped sheet that said Story Philly on them. One of the girls, Nia, at the door recognized I didn’t know where to go and she excitedly introduced herself and took me through the lobby of the building that is similar to one in a hotel with a long hall and a desk attendant at the very end. We both enter into one of the elevators on the left and thus proceeds our ascension to the twelfth floor. As soon as the elevator doors split open it felt as if I was about to enter a club.
There were so many people huddled by a station where you could get coffee and around the corner a bunch of closed office rooms. If I walked through that space and turned through a little hallway I became face to face with a party. Strung up lights, a band and at least a hundred people. All of which appeared to be in their early to mid-twenties were all crammed into this space dancing. The energy from the people within was contagious.
As I walk around Nia eagerly gives me some insight of the church, Story Philly. The whole time she talks it’s with a smile. I learned that Story is branched from a church in Vineland, New Jersey where the current pastor in Philly, Matt Edgar’s parents created. Nia begins to mention Matt, who is not only the pastor of Story, but is also the cofounder of a nonprofit organization called [re]story. This nonprofit connects mentors to children from the greater Philadelphia area in order to provide positive relationships to reach for a brighter future.
A Whole Other Part of the City:
I was able to talk with the other cofounder, Erika Grace. When I first met Erika the first thing I immediately noticed was that she had a small shadow. This shadow was her six year old daughter Kiran who regularly attends the services, which was funny compared to the surrounding college students which primarily make up the audience for Story. Erika and Kiran came over from Vineland, New Jersey where the original Story was formed and followed Matt in coming to Philly in support of the spreading of the philosophy of Story to Philadelphia. Erika had one of the first imprints on the making of Story Philly and her positive energy radiated when she talked of the progression of Story as an evolving community with relationships like family. The creation of [re]story is an example of how Story continues to impact the community of Philadelphia.
To my shock, [re]story was formed through a crazy event of Matt and Erika witnessing a child steal a phone from a mother. It’s amazing how a horrible event provided as a forefront for the beginning of something great, which actually reflects from their mission. [re]story was formed on the belief that no matter how a child was brought up or what environment they were placed in, they have the power to rewrite their story. Most of the children that are in the program come from the Philadelphia area, such as Waterloo, where the opportunities are low and the poverty rate is high.
Let’s Do Life Together:
[Re]story’s objective is carried out through mentors and reps. Reps are helpers who believe in the mission of [re]story and help out with events for the kids, but the mentors, form more of a relationship with the kids and act as more of the foundation for the program. Faatimah Curry, a mentor in [re]story and an active member at Story embodied the passion of mentorship. As one that personally benefited from a mentor when she was growing up and then becoming one herself she is a huge activist in creating a connection between the kids, the community, herself, and the hope for a better future. She heavily explained that mentorship is not a one sided affair, but that both parties can equally have an empowering impact on each other. The main factor is respect.
For [re]story only being birthed a year and a half ago they have progressed from their start. Erika tells me that one of her favorite moments is when they had an event for the kids to pie mentors in the face if they racked up enough points. Hearing about this event and others similar to this they have conducted portrayed a nostalgic mood that teleported Erika back to the time.
Simply Having Fun:
[Re]story is one of those programs that as the people grow within so does the program itself. Currently the program is going through a growth phase in order to best accurately provide what is needed for the location. Erika tells me that they are going to re-shift their focus on honing in on schools, because that is where the children are and where [re]story should be available.
The growth of this program has the power to not only change a child’s life, but the future outcome of Philadelphia as a better community.