Neighbors in Spruce Hill in West Philadelphia are attempting to build up their organization by offering free membership for new members that join the Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) between now and next winter.
Some civic groups charge fees and some don’t. SHCA fees are $20 a year. The group’s more than 300 members provide an annual budget of $6,000 that contributes to the organization’s efforts in the community. Current members decided to offer free membership in order to boost the group’s numbers, ostensibly increasing the budget in years to come. Ten new members had joined by early May, according to Rich Guffanti, SCHA’s database coordinator.
“There’s about a dozen things we do with it,” said Guffanti. That includes handling publicity and making the community aware of local development like plans for a 92-unit building at 43rd & Baltimore. When neighbors voiced their concern about a Subway proposal at 45th and Baltimore, the group’s budget contributed to community outreach efforts, though the store did eventually open. While the money is not much, for SCHA it serves its purpose.
Civic organizations like Northern Liberties Neighbors Association (NLNA), one of the city’s most active right now in terms of zoning and development, offer free membership. In order to run for an NLNA board member position, though, one must attend three general meetings. Logan Square Neighborhood Association, another active organization, charges $30 a household, $20 an individual, and $10 for students.
One benefit of civic groups is that when the City engages the community in large-scale, long-term planning efforts, like Phila2035, it reaches out to them and relies on them to spread the word to neighbors. So it was for the Southwest arm of the Phila2035 planning. SCHA hosted some of the public meetings between the community and the City. As such, this civic group became a point of contact between the voices of neighbors and the gavel of Philadelphia bureaucracy. In terms of neighborhood development, residents can increase their power by organizing. In Spruce Hill, until the end of next winter, that chance is now free.