In 1984 homeless people had become increasingly visible on the streets of Center City Philadelphia. The then Episcopal Diocesan Bishop called for parishes to aid in relieving this inhumane condition. Emboldened by his own outrage at the growing problem, Father Lou Temme, then rector of Trinity Memorial Church (TMC) in Center City, engaged church volunteers to join in developing a plan for a shelter for homeless men to be housed in the Parish House basement during the five coldest months of the year.
Because the church sat in the midst of a residential neighborhood, it was anticipated that the plan would be met with hostility when it was presented to a packed community meeting. But the plan was so well thought out that instead of hostility it was greeted with enthusiastic approval, with many neighbors volunteering to help. The program was named Wintershelter and is now in its 26th year.
The shelter volunteers became interested in adding other outreach programs. In 1985 the umbrella organization Community Outreach Partnership was created with its own board made up of community members and TMC parishioners. Communicare, a one-on-one companionship and advocacy program for the elderly was the next program initiated. Communicare was followed by Cook-Off, a meal assembly program in which volunteers prepare frozen dinners distributed to other homeless shelters in the city.
In 2009 Community Outreach Partnership started Greens-on-the-Go, a community sustainable agriculture program. This effort provides Center City residents the opportunity to purchase “shares” of fresh fruits and vegetables from a certified organic farm throughout the summer/autumn growing season.
In early 2011 the Partnership will begin hosting open potluck discussion dinners whose purpose will be to educate and instruct residents on how to live sustainably in crowded urban circumstances.
In partnership with neighbors, non-church volunteers and other local social service and community action organizations, Community Outreach Partnership has achieved significant results in contributing to the health, safety, education, sheltering, and nutritional needs of Philadelphia residents.