In North Philly, a former Boy Scout is now a scoutmaster

In North Philly, a former Boy Scout is now a scoutmaster

Antonio McCall has been involved in scouting since he was just 14 years old. He followed his step-brother one day to a scout meeting at Wayland Temple Baptist Church in at 25th and Cecil B. Moore and never left. “That was exciting to me, that was different to me,” said McCall, who’s 31 and the scoutmaster for Troop 98. “I’m a different kind of guy, I was a different kind of kid. So when I came here and heard that was an option, those were things that we would learn and explore, I was excited. Being that this troop is based in North Philly, there’s not a lot of that so I was excited that this was an opportunity that I could come every week and meet new people.” Troop 98 is one of seven units in North Philadelphia and has been around since 1999. It was started by former scout master Roslyn Munson with her son, Aaron, who was one of...
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The people who care for Philly’s gunshot victims

The people who care for Philly’s gunshot victims

On average, Kenneth Dupree of Dupree Funeral Home at 28th and Diamond streets sees one to two victims of gun violence a year. Bruce Talbert says Talbert Funeral Parlor at 22nd near Lehigh has received 10 so far. The services for the victims that both men preside over have all been young people, usually in their early 20s. Talbert says he’s not surprised when gunshot victims come through the door, but it doesn’t get any easier. “It’s not an everyday occurrence, but it’s not something that alarms us when it happens,” the Chester native said. “When I was growing up, you handled things with your hands. [Young people now] handle things with guns, so it’s not something that catches you off guard to get a call from a family that someone has passed from a shooting incident.” With anyone who has passed — but specifically with those of gun violence — the family conferences that follow with funeral directors can be highly emotional....
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This Germantown native helps Philly dogs get adopted and takes strays off the streets

This Germantown native helps Philly dogs get adopted and takes strays off the streets

Animal control officer Steven Morales’ schedule changes constantly. From replying to complaints to responding to calls about stranded animals, he doesn’t have a typical day at Philly’s Animal Care & Control Team. Though it can get hectic at times, the work he does can be rewarding and something he wants to continue to do. JEVS Human Services held its 19th Annual Strictly Business Awards late last week, where Morales received the inspiration award for working hard and continuing on a positive path, despite his challenging past. JEVS helps people with physical, emotional and developmental challenges, as well as those who are unemployed or underemployed. It was not an easy road for Morales to get where he is now. The Germantown resident has lived in the city all his life, but found himself in prison in his early 20s and spent part of the next two decades in and out of prison on drug charges. While behind bars, Morales was able to connect with...
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Lost in the education system, two West Philly natives on what got them into — and out of — jail

Lost in the education system, two West Philly natives on what got them into — and out of — jail

Josh Glenn was first introduced to the world of drug dealing when he was 13. When he was working as a bagger at local grocery stores, someone from his West Philadelphia community approached him, asking if he would be interested in making “real money.” “There were no role models, no mentorship, we didn’t have anything in our community,” Glenn said. “The role models were people who were selling drugs, they would come up to me looking flashy, having good money and would try and get me to sell drugs.” Glenn was constantly approached and pressured to start dealing, eventually getting worn down. The police, Glenn said, would often target people in his community. In 2005, he was charged with aggravated assault with a weapon. He said that he didn’t commit the crime, but the police charged him based on a complaint, and he found himself in jail for the next 18 months. Glenn admitted that had a brief criminal drug history prior to...
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After prison, Faith Bartley wants to help other women get a second chance

After prison, Faith Bartley wants to help other women get a second chance

Faith Bartley wants a home to call her own. Not just a rented room, but somewhere that can take her away from the community that she’s known all her life. “I was born and raised in this community, so I know everybody. From the time that I was a child and up until now,” Bartley, now 53, said. “Right now, I reside in a room, because every time I go look for an apartment, they go into my criminal history. Even though my record has been expunged, there are still some drug felonies on my criminal history that can’t be removed, because I was convicted of it.” Bartley is a fixture in her neighborhood, doing what she can to help others. A the start of our conversation, she was even interrupted by someone asking if she had coffee. “No sir, ain’t no coffee, bro,” She said. “Brotha, close my door. I’m in an interview.” She doesn’t sugarcoat her past. Over the years, she’s spent...
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Inside a Philly criminal record expungement clinic: ‘Freedom is not just freedom’

Inside a Philly criminal record expungement clinic: ‘Freedom is not just freedom’

Sterling Scott arrived at St. Mark’s Church in Frankford with the same goal as his peers: to start the process of getting his criminal record expunged. “My daughter, she attacked me and I wound up macing her,” Scott, 63, said. “I went to the police station to let them know what happened and shortly after that, I guess she called them and they arrested me at the police station.” At the beginning of the criminal record expungement and sealing clinic on Tuesday, Scott was among 40 people who sat inside a small room of the church listening intently to the lengthy process of what they would have to do in order to get their records sealed or expunged. Obtaining a person’s criminal history is the first step in the process. Both the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity and Community Legal Services of Philadelphia were in attendance. PLSE holds expungement clinics throughout the city that is greatly impacted by arrests with partnering organizations. While PLSE...
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How an Overbrook High grad went from jail time to a career in engineering

How an Overbrook High grad went from jail time to a career in engineering

Paul Johnson knows that it’s hard for people from the outside looking in to understand his story and his struggles. His life, he said, was never straightforward. Johnson, 26, attended and graduated from Overbrook high school and took a few college courses at the Community College of Philadelphia before dropping out. He soon took a path that led him to spending time in and out of jail before being sentenced to six months for missing court dates due to driving under the influence. Once released, he had trouble securing a job. No one really wanted to take the chance of hiring someone with a record, and he received a lot of rejections from employers after handing in his applications. Then his probation officer connected him to the PowerCorps program through the Philadelphia Water Department, where Johnson learned about the history and use of Green Stormwater Infrastructure, and was able to do work that included basic maintenance on drains, landscape and infrastructure work. He...
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Like Skype for prisons: How tech is used in PA for virtual inmate visitation

Like Skype for prisons: How tech is used in PA for virtual inmate visitation

Myra Gaskins’ life changed in 1989. Her son, LaFaye Gaskins, had been arrested for murder. Myra still insists her son is innocent, but a jury found him guilty in May 1990 of killing Albert Dodson, a drug dealer. LaFaye is currently serving a life sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy in Schuylkill County. The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, a nonprofit corporation housed at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, is looking into her son’s case, Myra said, with the goal of getting him a new trial. The only way Myra and LaFaye have been able to visit with each other over the last five years is through the Virtual Visitation Program, which allows inmates to communicate with their loved ones through a television, camera and internet hook up — similar to a Skype session. These visits may soon be interrupted as the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ends the contract with the company that provides these services. Myra and other families with incarcerated loved...
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A Game of Thrones-style swordplay class happens Sundays in West Philly

A Game of Thrones-style swordplay class happens Sundays in West Philly

Graham Meyer plays with swords every Sunday morning in West Philly. He carries them there in a golf bag, en route to a gathering of the Philadelphia Common Fencers Guild – students and teachers interested in learning the finer points of Historical European Martial Arts. Most of the swords in the bag are a mixture of wood and plastic. Only a few students, including Meyer, have actual bladed weapons. Meyer’s favorite is the steel competition blade called the Federshwert, a type of German fencing weapon. He also knows how to wield a rapier, sabre, and spear. On Sunday, despite chilly winds and melting ice soaking parts of the park, Meyer gathered his group of six disciples, urging them to grab a sword that they felt comfortable with. Instead of a quick warm up, Meyer went straight to drills. He started off with basic hand positions and footwork this weekend morning. His path to this point with his class is anything but straightforward. A Portland...
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This new giving circle funds struggling Philly schools

This new giving circle funds struggling Philly schools

It was about a year and a half ago when Andy Toy read an article about a school in Germantown that was struggling with funds. The principal, Toy recalled, had only $34 and couldn’t afford to purchase many amenities for his students. However, within a few days of the article being published, the school received thousands of dollars in donations and the principal was able to move forward in buying the things that his school needed. That’s when the idea of the Philadelphia Public School Giving Circle (PPSGC) took hold. “To me the lightbulb kind of went off and was like, if we could get everybody out there and do the same thing, people would give because people are interested in giving,” said Toy, development and communications manager of Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition (SEAMAAC). “There is a big need out there.” With PPSGC, there is a strong focus on regular neighborhood public schools, especially those in low-income areas and have limited fundraising capacity within their communities,...
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