ABOVE PHOTO: “Birthday girl”, Councilwoman/PHA Commissioner Jamie Blackwell speaks to one of her guests at her annual Health fair for the Homeless event
More than 200 Philadelphia Housing Authority employees took time away from their regular duties today to help PHA Commissioner and City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell celebrate her birthday the way she has for the past 13 years – holding a Health Fair for the Homeless.
The event at Dilworth Plaza, next to City Hall, attracted an estimated 3,000 homeless Philadelphians, mostly from the City’s family shelter system. They were treated to a barbeque lunch, including hot dogs, hamburgers, salads and, of course, birthday cake. PHA employees served the meals.
Commissioner Blackwell holds the annual event as a birthday celebration for everybody, so everyone gets a chance to have holiday fun in the summer.
“My birthday is technically July 15th, but we always have our party on the Friday closest, which is the 16th this year. We believe that everybody should have a chance to celebrate whenever they were born,” she said.
PHA Executive Director Carl Greene agreed with Blackwell that events such as this one teach the true meaning of public service to public employees.
“Public service occurs both on and off the job,” Greene said. “Our employees demonstrate their commitment to that ideal every day, at work and in their communities. Their participation in today’s event is just another example of that commitment and a tribute to the service before self-interest example set by Councilwoman Blackwell.”
Although a number of well-known public officials attended the event, there were no long speeches. Instead, the format of the event is interactive, where officials get to meet and mingle with some of the people they serve.
“These are real people whom you can reach out and touch and help,” Blackwell said. “I try to tell people if the bottom comes up, the top has to rise. So, there’s no need to fear anything from people at the bottom rung of the ladder.”
The Commissioner thanked PHA for its support of the event, especially in light of the difficult economy. She said the event generates good will, keeps hope alive and “lets people know we care.”