“The Opportunity: Economic Mobility for All.” That was the theme as David E. Griffith, Executive Director of Episcopal Community Services (ECS) addressed the final luncheon of the 2018-2019 season on Tuesday, April 16, at The Acorn Club. Mr. Griffith updated us on this important organization within the Diocese of Pennsylvania.
Griffith has been executive director of ECS since May 2013. He is the first non-clergy person to head the organization, which will celebrate its 150th year on May 1, 2020. He is an advocate for individuals and families in poverty and strongly believes that the call to service, along with the call for inclusion, diversity, and equal access to opportunity, is core to the Episcopal faith tradition. Griffith and his family are members of Trinity Church, Solebury.
ECS has always met the evolving needs of the region, Griffith said, yet poverty persists. He noted that Philadelphia is the poorest of the top ten largest cities in the United States, with 25.7% of its citizens and 37% of its children living at or below the Federal Poverty Level.
The mission of ECS is to challenge and reduce intergenerational poverty. “We increase the ability of people to improve their lives and achieve economic independence,” the organization states. To improve its effectiveness, ECS has been re-branding itself, using the slogan, “Look up. Challenge poverty.” ECS uses a research-informed coaching methodology to help Philadelphians put themselves on a path to upward mobility.
What does ECS do? It operates in three areas:
- Stability: Programs help participants to move out of their crises, through emergency housing (St. Barnabas Mission) and permanent housing (Rapid Rehousing).
- Prevention: Programs promote alternative thinking strategies to increase participants’ well-being. These include youth development and health and wellness.
- Transformation: Programs enable participants to identify and achieve their goals toward upward economic mobility.
At the beginning of the ECS program, clients are focusing primarily on crisis management. However, as they progress, they shift their focus to goals attainment. ECS combines one-on-one coaching with group training to achieve this.
Throughout its history, ECS has partnered with the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania in various ways to serve the needs of individuals and families in poverty. The organization offers four possibilities for involvement by parishes in the diocese:
- Education on how to challenge poverty
- Establishing community partners within the parish
- Transformational volunteer programs
- Parishioners in need can benefit directly from ECS programs.
To fulfill the overlapping goals of ECS and the diocese, ECS has revived the position of Chaplain. The Reverend David R. Anderson came aboard in this position as of January 2019.
ECS has received national recognition for its efforts. As Griffith noted, “Self interest starts with recognition of your neighbor’s interest.” He cautions, however, that there is no room for complacency about poverty. Unless we make progress in addressing the major inequities in our country, he says, we are about 10 years away from serious civil unrest.
For more information about ECS, including a video, please visit the ECS website at https://ecsphilly.org.