Oh the People You’ll Meet!

Matt Wilk, Energy Corps member with the Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia (ECA) wrote this blog entry about an inspirational person he met in the course of his service.  Matt writes:

“Once in a while you can get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”  To me, this quote says that sometimes the unexpected will surprise you.  Sometimes, you’ll find remarkable individuals in the most unlikely places, and they always have a gravitational presence about them.  This is especially true with one particular woman I met, Claudine.

We Never Say Never serves some of the poorest populations in Philadelphia

The Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia (ECA) has a network of Neighborhood Energy Centers (NEC’s) throughout Philadelphia which serve as one-stop-shops for community members to receive assistance with paying for their utilities among other things.  One NEC which stands out above the rest is “We Never Say Never” (WNSN), located in West Philadelphia.  The building doesn’t really look like much from the outside, and you’d easily pass right by it, but the amount of work and passion that comes from within this small brick building is extraordinary.  I’d go as far as to say that if We Never Say Never didn’t exist, the low-income population of Philadelphia would be in a very terrible situation.

We Never Say Never serves as a central location for community members to receive assistance with their electric and heating bills, among a variety of other services.  “Some people don’t feel comfortable going into the city to go to the welfare office” says one of their volunteers, “instead they can come here and get the paperwork filled out.  It helps to have a familiar place close to home.”  We Never Say Never serves primarily African-American, low-income communities, however one thing that WNSN prides itself on is its open door policy.  “We Never Say Never has no boundaries,” remarks its Executive Director, Claudine Cooper, “We service everybody”.

We Never Say Never has become a household name in West Philadelphia.  It’s a pillar of support within the community; it’s the first place the people turn to when they have an in-home crisis.  The success that WNSN has can be largely attributed to their Executive Director, Claudine Cooper.  Having been involved in the local non-profit community for over 25 years, Claudine has a really solid grasp on the needs of her community.  What I found so remarkable about Claudine is her humility.  You’ll never hear her brag about the monumental work she has done over the years.

Claudine is the woman who makes everything possible at WNSN

There have even been times where We Never Say Never has gone up to a year without funding, and when different programs close, WNSN diligently stays open past closing hours to accept as many applications and help as many people in need.  Such dedication toward the people is what makes WNSN so successful.

It was remarkable seeing the level of admiration both Claudine’s volunteers and program recipients had toward her.

“The people’s appreciation is so rewarding.” Remarks Claudine, “They are so appreciative of what we do because we go above and beyond… We got robbed, and people from the community came in and volunteered to help in any way they can.”

This past summer, We Never Say Never was broken into, vandalized and had its computers stolen.  After such an event, you’d think their spirits would have been crushed, instead, over the next few days, the community members helped get the center up and running again, and new computers were donated to the facility.  Seeing such reciprocal service in the community is quite remarkable.

Claudine is such a strong-willed woman.  Her dedication shines through the work done at We Never Say Never and it’s the passion of people like her that make the Neighborhood Energy Centers, and ECA as a whole effective at making a change in the energy future of Philadelphia.  I feel really fortunate to have met her and I hope my video will properly recognize the passion and dedication Claudine exhibits on a daily basis.

member_matt-wilkMatthew Wilk completed his studies at Marist College, majoring in Communications with a minor in Public Praxis. He has experience coordinating public service events, preparing interactive environmental educational activities and making documentaries. Matt will be the Communications and Development Member at the Energy Coordinating Agency. He will prepare proposals, deliver region-wide presentations and ensure the sustainability of ECA’s services in the community.

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