This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Mark McHugh
The West Philadelphia Alliance for Children, the nonprofit that helps stock and run public school libraries in the city, announced Monday that it had received a $10,000 grant from the Hamels Foundation to continue its work in increasing and improving public school library access.
The Partners in Education grant, given every other year by the foundation of Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels and his wife, Heidi, comes at a time when the School District is struggling to stay solvent amid drastic budget cuts and mass layoffs, which included school librarians among the nearly 3,800 pink slips sent out last month.
David Florig, WePAC’s executive director, said that nonprofits will be called upon by the District to assume a greater role in the education of Philadelphia’s children. The grant from the Hamels Foundation, he said, will allow WePAC to expand and help fill the vacancies created as a result of the budget crisis.
“With the budget situation, there are not going to be open libraries in basically any elementary schools in Philadelphia next year,” said Florig. “From that standpoint, I think the School District is relying more and more on nonprofits and other organizations to provide the services that will be missing.”
The District’s grim financial state notwithstanding, the decision to give to WePAC was not necessarily due to the District’s turmoil, according to G-N Kang, operations director for the Hamels Foundation. The grant, she said, was “for all the great things they do with sustaining libraries within schools.”
WePAC has, in the last decade, reopened 16 elementary school libraries and donated thousands of books to partner schools. They now run 12 libraries in West and Southwest Philadelphia, providing various services to students in grades K-4, such as reading assistance and afterschool newspaper programs.
Mark McHugh is an intern at the Notebook.