Northwest Philly’s pride as a cradle of religious freedom and social justice is evident in its institutions — places like Johnson House, which played a role in the pre-Civil War abolitionist movement, and Freedom Square in central Germantown, site of the first anti-slavery protest in 1638. This year, the community is celebrating the 10th anniversary of an institutional gem — Germantown Life Enrichment Center at 5722 Greene St.
GLEC’s celebration is all the more remarkable considering that 11 years ago, the building (formerly the YMCA of Germantown) was closed after a flood in the recreational part of the facility. Soon after, the YMCA of the USA revoked its charter after 137 years of community service. But against all odds, the “Y” members reconstituted Board leadership, volunteered countless hours to reconstruction, and restored the organization as the Germantown Life Enrichment Center.
Today GLEC provides housing for 128 low-income men, as well as after school and summer camp programs that are frequently filled to capacity. The center also includes a huge gym and pool, and offers sports, martial arts and fitness programs for adults and elders, swim lessons, lifeguard training, pool party space, a sauna, lap and recreational swimming, social events, and community meeting rooms.
The GLEC residential facility, which remained open even when the flood had closed the rest of the building, has been recognized by the city for the quality of the support it offers. Such facilities are desperately needed as the homeless population has skyrocketed. Unlike YMCAs, which no longer offer residences, GLEC has preserved this part of its mission of community service.
The GLEC recreational facility is open from 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, and for private events on Sunday. GLEC is unique for its partnership role in founding Germantown Community Radio on 92.9 FM. WRLG-LP broadcasts 10 hours of educational and cultural programming a week, including “Germantown Artists Roundtable” and “Vanessa’s Money Hour” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons.
GLEC invites Northwest Philly neighbors to join in the celebration at its seventh annual All-You-Can-Eat Crab Festival and Auction Saturday, Sept. 14 from 7-11 p.m. The event helps GLEC to welcome children from low-income families not eligible for public assistance to use the facility and participate in its programs. Over 200 people attended the fest last year, which also features live music and dancing. For more information about the Crab Fest and the Germantown Life Enrichment Center, or to donate, go to www.glifecenter.org or call 215-844-3281.
Connie Bille is the former president of Allens Lane Art Center. She’s currently a board member at GLEC and the station manager at WRFG.