The Delaware County Citizen Corps will be honored as the 2020 Hometown Hero Champion of Adult Literacy at the Literacy Is Essential Telethon on October 21, 2020.
The Delaware County Citizen Corps exists to “improve the emergency preparedness, health, and safety of the residents of Delaware County.” Volunteers in the Corps train and practice so they are ready to support existing emergency workers in a “major emergency or disaster in or around Delaware County.”
When COVID-19 arrived in Delaware County in March 2020, it was not a drill. This was a true emergency.
The Citizen Corps responded to the challenge. In the months that followed, the Corps registered, vetted, and trained more than 700 new volunteers and worked with local officials to determine the best way to deploy them.
Edwin Kline is the Volunteer Management Coordinator in Delaware County’s Office of Emergency Management who heads the Citizen Corps. He is aided by a team of deputy and assistant coordinators.
Guided by this leadership, the Corps has staffed call centers in Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware County; unloaded, stocked, and packed food for local food banks; set up a Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) for the Glen Mills medical surge center; operated a first responder refuge center; and assisted with COVID-19 testing sites held in a variety of locations, including Chester and Upper Darby. Medical professionals volunteering for the Corps have filled especially valuable roles, such as administering the COVID-19 nasopharyngeal swabbing test itself and collecting information at local nursing homes to determine their COVID-19 readiness and/or needs.
“It’s all about service and assisting the community,” says Kline. He highlights the importance of the Citizens Corps in underserved communities that “may have limited resources and increased needs” during an emergency.
The Corps celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year. We congratulate the Delaware County Citizen Corps, its leadership, and its volunteers on their important work, and we are proud to honor the Corps as the 2020 Hometown Hero Champion of Adult Literacy.
Jonathan Abdur Rahim King will be honored as the 2020 Community Champion of Adult Literacy at the Literacy Is Essential Telethon on October 21, 2020.
Jonathan is an agent of change and a force for good in the City of Chester, the city where he was born and raised.
As a community leader, he has been involved in mentoring young people, community organizing, prison reform, education, citizen re-entry, and reducing gun violence.
That’s quite a resume for someone who was sent to jail for selling drugs as a young man. While there, Jonathan had an “aha” moment when seeing a father and son incarcerated at the same time. He decided prison was not the future he wanted for himself.
Based on his personal experience, Jonathan has worked tirelessly to ease the difficult transition that community members face when returning to society after serving time in prison, also known as citizen re-entry.
He has taken action to guide young people to make good choices in their lives, serving as an Amachi Mentor and providing leadership in Brothers of Concern, a community organization that presents positive role models and alternatives for at-risk youth. He started the Safe Corridors program in Chester to ensure the safety of students as they arrive to and depart from school. In addition, he is a supervisor for Cure Violence Global, a nationwide initiative that promotes creative solutions and personal intervention to reduce gun violence.
Because he believes education is key to creating opportunities, he is the Community Liaison for the Chester Charter School for the Arts and has served on the Board of Directors of the Delaware County Literacy Council since 2012. He also proudly notes that he has an Associate Degree in Social Work and is working on his bachelor’s degree.
But he is perhaps most proud of being appointed as a citizen member of the County Jail Oversight Board of George Hill Corrections Facility, the very jail where he served time more than 30 years ago.
Jonathan believes his lifelong activism shares goals with the Black Lives Matter movement. He sees the injustices that Brown and Black people face on a daily basis, but he remains hopeful that things will eventually improve, stating “It is young people’s energy that is going to be the driving force to bring about change.”
Maria Torres will be honored as the 2020 Student Champion of Adult Literacy at the Literacy Is Essential Telethon on October 21, 2020. Maria is originally from the Dominican Republic. She is a licensed dentist in her country and has practiced dentistry in the Dominican Republic and Spain.
Maria enrolled with the Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC) in November 2016 as an English as a Second Language (ESL) student. She wanted to improve her ability to speak and understand English. Also, Maria realized that better English skills would allow her to be successful in her job search. Specifically, when Maria applied to work in a local dentist office, she was told her English was not good enough to do the job. Maria knew she needed to take the brave step of asking for help, so she contacted the Literacy Council with the goal of improving her English skills.
Once enrolled with DCLC, Maria was matched with Volunteer Tutor James Stein. After working with James on her English for two years, Maria applied to a dental office, and this time she landed the job! She is now a full-time dental assistant in the office of Mindy Benjamini, DMD, a dental practice in Narberth PA.
COVID-19 did not impede Maria’s progress or motivation. She continues to meet with her tutor James via video conferences. When her workplace shut down during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, she even expressed gratitude that she had more time to do her ESL homework!
When her workplace reopened, Maria was very involved in implementing COVID-19 protocols to keep the staff and patients at the dental practice safe, including a special patient shield developed by Dr. Benjamini.
Through all of these changes, Maria did not give up on her dream. Instead, she worked hard to reach her goals. As James says, “Her persistence and patience paid off!” Maria continues to study with James and has recently placed out of ESL and is now a basic literacy student. She continues to improve her skills so she can get the most out of her life here in the U.S. We congratulate Maria on being the 2020 Student Champion of Adult Literacy!