“A Beacon of Light” for Southwest Children  Community Celebrates 40-Year Service of Myers Tot Program

Proudly holding their City citations for a steadfast 40 years of service to children & families in SW are Edna Reddick, founder of the Myers Tot (3rd from right) and Sandra Mitchell, an early Tots leader (2nd from right). Also participating in the loving award celebration were (from left, Peter Grim of The Common Place, Dr. Carey Davis, Jan
Eberlein and Susan Aggarwal of CityLights ministry.
Proudly holding their City citations for a steadfast 40 years of service to children & families in SW are Edna Reddick, founder of the Myers Tot (3rd from right) and Sandra Mitchell, an early Tots leader (2nd from right). Also participating in the loving award celebration were (from left, Peter Grim of The Common Place, Dr. Carey Davis, Jan Eberlein and Susan Aggarwal of CityLights ministry.

Community members gathered at The Common Place on Sunday, October 20 to celebrate four decades of service by the Myers Tot Program to hundreds of Southwest children and their families.

Through the initiative of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, citations on behalf of City Council were read and presented to both the Tots program team and separately to its founder and director, Edna Reddick. The citation read in part: 

“The Myers Tots and After School Programs under the capable leadership and direction of Edna Reddick, Janet Michele Jones, and Natalie Reddick have been a beacon of light and hope for the children and families in Southwest Philadelphia for over 40 years. They have volunteered their time and energy to provide a safe haven and secure learning environment for 3-4 generations of children who have attended their programs.”

Speaking poignantly on behalf of the community was Dr. Carey Davis, a founder of CityLights Ministry. ” As a young mother, Edna sat on her stoop and watched children play on the sidewalk and between parked cars. Learning that Myers Recreation Center was under-utilized, she collected the neighborhood youngsters, marched them to Myers and started a program for them. That was 40 years ago!

“It was not unusual for Edna to rise early and make her way to the Center to make sure the building was really clean before the children arrived. She stayed late when mothers were delayed, offered her personal finances to provide special events for the kids or to help a family that was struggling. 

“She is a servant leader – one that leads by example and with great humility. I don’t think we will ever know the impact Edna has had on generations of children, instilling in them a sense of worth and dignity, and guiding them toward successful futures.”

A typical morning pre-reading session at the Tot Program at Myers Rec. Center. Tots year-round nurture of SW children was praised by City Council at an October 20 celebration.

“In Matthew, Jesus tells us that we will know a tree by its fruit – to know what kind of person you are dealing with, take a look at their works.” To answer that inquiry for Ms. Edna, Davis provided a few glimpses: “Edna standing proudly as tots quoted parts of the “I Have a Dream” speech before an adoring audience of parents and friends; Edna playfully waving a banner or wearing a wacky costume as she led a parade of her charges down the block, or Edna doing without personally so that a mother in the Myers Tots program could buy medicine or pay the heating bill.

Jan Eberlein of CityLights added a historical note: “The program was formalized when Mayor Street brought the After-School Programs into the Philadelphia Recreational Centers. The Tot program was the only African American program among the 100 city-wide tot programs run by the Department of Parks and Recreation.” The trio of leaders was insistent that other members of the Myers Tot team be recognized for their selfless efforts over the years, including Ms. Karriema, Ms. Mary, Ms. Paula, Ms. Sandra, Ms. Donna, Ms. Maulana, Mr. Zumar, Ms. Zamilla, Ms. Adrian and Ms. Ashley.

In private remarks, Ms. Edna said that she has always felt that as a servant of the Lord her calling has been to serve the children and families in her Southwest Philadelphia. “One might add that the Lord must be smiling at what she has been able to accomplish,” reflected Dr. Davis, who now runs a respite house in Mt. Airy. “She was gracious and regal and kind, and in her quiet way helped others to be helpful, making them look good in the process while slipping out from under the spotlight herself,” reflected Davis.

The Common Place, located at 58th Street and Chester Avenue, is a house of worship and community nurture center. It provides monthly “Common Worship and a Common Meal” for the community, plus a monthly prayer breakfast for men, daily afterschool and Saturday enrichment programs for children and youth. For more information, visit www.thecommonplacephilly.org or call 267-275-8328. 

CityLights Ministry is an urban-suburban faith-based network created by Wayne Presbyterian church and based at The Common Place. CityLights supports groups and individuals who are improving the quality of life in Southwest. Contact the Rev. Cean James at citylightsdirector@gmail.com

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