Every year we write our resolution lists, make our promises to pilates instructors and swear off the indulgences of the holidays that brought joy and belly aches just days before. Go ahead and do all that. And then do more.
In 2019, make a promise to your city—a resolution to “Do Something” every day to make Philly a greater city for everyone in it. That can be any small thing—pick up litter, bring donuts to teachers, support local theater. Or it can be the biggies of civic engagement—attend school board meetings, vote, run for office.
Where to start? Here are some ideas—though, there are many other ways to get involved and a number of different organizations to do it with. Let us know if there’s something else we should include.
1. Dust off your inner bookworm
Drink in some literature
The Rosenbach’s monthly Bibliococktail happy hour combines two of the best things in the world: Cocktails and books. In January, the museum celebrates Walt Whitman’s bicentennial at Art in the Age; in February, it’s James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. Plus, check out the Rosenbach’s Shakespeare reading circles, classes—Brontes, Joyce, Vampires, oh my!—and other fun literary events.
Read with One Book One Philly
For the past 16 years, The Free Library of Philadelphia has dedicated each year to one book, creating over 100 different programs centered around books like What is the What by Dave Eggers and The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. Coming off the heels of 2017’s Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, Philly welcomes Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, one of The New York Times’ 10 best books of the year. Keep an eye out for events happening between all year centered around this book. Get the details here.
The Free Library of Philadelphia offers all kinds of services to its visitors, from after school homework help to fitness classes—many powered by volunteers like you. Volunteers help plan events, teach English to new Americans, help senior citizens with the latest tech, shelve books, and more. Bonus: Since there are so many locations, there is probably a branch in your neighborhood—so you don’t need to go too far to do your part. Click here to find yours.
Start a neighborhood book exchange
On 43rd and Locust streets, there is a wooden bookshelf attached to the fence of a beautiful community fruit and vegetable garden. The shelf’s location might seem odd, but it’s the product of inspired West Philadelphia neighbors, who, in their desire to make reading more accessible for their community, started a book exchange. You can take any book you like as long as you replace it with another. It’s akin to the Little Free Libraries, popping up all over the country—including some here, in East Passyunk and elsewhere. Here’s a guide to how to set one up yourself.
2. Get your (local) civics on
Know Your Local Electeds—and What They Do
You know the one. That tune you learned in 3rd grade to make learning all the presidents of the U.S. a bit easier? That’s great—but do you know who your ward leader is? Do you know who’s running in the general election coming up in 2019? It’s time to up your civic game.
Start by finding out who your elected are, here. Then, check out the work of The Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Housing, a group of community organizations, offering free voter workshops to prepare people for the polls in May. Participants will learn about what our elected officials are doing now, the role they play in housing decisions, in particular, who is running and where and how to vote. More details here.
Commit to vote
The Philadelphia City Commissioners, who run our elections, has everything you need to know about voting this year here—including when the elections will be held, where your polling place is, and who is running (when that’s known). Get your company or other organization to sign up for WeVote, an app developed by Committee of Seventy and local B Corporation MilkCrate to create a “culture of voting” among groups—something shown to increase civic involvement.
Run for something!
Ever been told you’d make a great mayor someday? Now’s your chance. Ok, maybe you don’t want to run for mayor but there are plenty of lower level political offices to be held. Check out our stories on how running for office can become a reality.
3. Be healthy—for you and your community
Take a walk
Use a marathon, fun run or charity walk as a way to get active and raise money for charity. Check out Philadelphia Runner for a full list of Philly’s non-profit and charity community runs and races coming up in 2019. Or, simply lace up and walk to work, the market, your kids’ school. Walking can reduce obesity, heart disease and crime and increase community and air quality—all things we need in this city.
Boost women’s health
If you’re passionate about accessible healthcare, particularly for low-income women and women of color, consider helping out at one of Planned Parenthood’s local clinics. Or, consider supporting the Philadelphia Midwife Collective in their mission to bring affordable health care to women, including LGBTQ+ families.
Because it just might save a life. Check out donation centers in Philly here.
4. Clean up your city
Drink for our parks
Contrary to what you might think, it’s not just manual labor that helps our parks. It’s also cocktails. Let this be the summer you follow Parks on Tap—a partnership between Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Fairmount Park Conservancy, and FCM Hospitality—for happy hours around town, with proceeds supporting a different park each time. Something look forward to starting early summer.
Ditch the car and find a public transportation route that works for you. Try biking through Indego Bike Share, and help others get in the habit through Neighborhood Bike Works, which hosts “Bike Church” evenings to help people repair their bikes, and runs youth programs in and around West Philly.
Become a city planning expert
The Citizens Planning Institute opens applications for its six week spring session in March, open to “anyone who loves where they live” and anyone who wants to take an active role in shaping their community. Classes cover everything from housing to jobs, transportation, environmental issues and community organizing. Sign up to receive updates about classes.
Just…pick up trash
It is that simple. And it can quickly turn into one million pounds of trash—just ask United By Blue: “A little over seven years ago, our tiny team recruited a handful of volunteers to pick up trash at our first cleanup along Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River. And 185 cleanups later, we picked up our 1 millionth pound of trash from the earth’s oceans and waterways.” You can join the effort, check out upcoming events. Here are some other ways to clean up Philly. Or, be a citizen hero and organize clean ups in your own neighborhood!
5. Buy things ethically
Check out our guide to independently-owned small business, many of them run by people of color and women.
6. Love Philly pets
Adopt a pup
Philadelphia is full of dogs and cats looking to find a new pack. It’s a big commitment, but you can save the life of an animal looking for a forever home. Head over to one of our city’s local shelters, take the plunge, and meet your next best friend. Can’t commit to adopting? Try fostering a cat or a dog and help take some of the load off the city’s shelters where capacity can run low especially in the winter.
Drink for dogs
Don’t have the time for a new pet or space to foster? You can still help Philadelphia’s local shelters! Several of the city’s dog-friendly bars offer regular yappy hours—dogs welcome—that send proceeds to various animal welfare organizations around town.
7. Do it for the kids
Attend School Board meetings
Mayor Kenney’s new nine member school board has been in place since last summer, putting the schools in local control for the first time in two decades. Come see how they’re doing, make your voice heard and share your opinion on the challenges and opportunities of Philly students. You can find their meeting schedule here.
Help your local school
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Support juvenile justice
The Juvenile Law Center advocates for the rights, dignity, equity and opportunity for youth in the child welfare and justice systems. Through easy to understand resources for youth and their families, foster care opportunities and programs like Juveniles for Justice, the organization is working to achieve fair treatment and change to the juvenile justice system. Check out their events here.
Camp out, support homeless youth
Covenant House’s semi-annual Sleep Outs serve many purposes: they raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the shelter that serves homeless youth, many of whom are LGBTQ, and provide a glimpse of what it’s like to live out on the streets.Photo by Chun-Hung Eric Cheng via Flickr