Written by Blaine Lewis-Thompson, Community Resource Corps Field Coordinator

The Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service’s Community Resource Corps (CRC) worked alongside PHLConnectED to directly connect over 80 Philadelphia households with free internet in a little over a month. PHLConnectED is the City of Philadelphia’s program to connect pre-K–12 households in need to free internet access. This partnership was the first for the new CRC, whose goals are to connect residents to resources, conduct neighborhood outreach, and build the City’s capacity for strategic community engagement. 

Partnering with PHLConnectED was a perfect way for the CRC’s AmeriCorps members to launch their community connection work with the program. CRC members are community-based leaders who have committed to a 6 – 10 month service term connecting residents to resources through this City-based AmeriCorps program. In order to lead this work, the CRC engaged with Philadelphia residents in a three phase process from December 2021 to January 2022:


Phase 1: Interest and Eligibility

  • Community Resource Corps AmeriCorps members made phone calls to residents who PHLConnectED identified as individuals who may be eligible for their services. Members conducted a needs assessment asking, “what resources or City services do you need help connecting to?”
  • Once the resident shared their current resource needs, the member then provided context on PHLConnectED to help determine eligibility.
  • After the first conversation, CRC members knew what resources to later introduce to the resident based on their needs, and the resident received information on how to apply for free internet service via PHLConnectED.

Phase 2: Case Management

  • Community Resource Corps AmeriCorps members followed up with residents who expressed interest in and/or called PHLConnectED’s 211 hotline used to access the PHLConnectED program. The 211 hotline is managed by the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, a key partner in PHLConnectED’s efforts to connect families in need to internet access.
  • CRC members then provided any additional support to the resident if residents had trouble calling the hotline, or getting access to the resource after being approved for free internet service.
  • If the resident could not enroll in PHLConnectED, CRC members worked with them to determine the reason, including ineligibility and program fit. CRC members also assisted the resident in applying to additional resources the resident expressed interest in during the initial Phase 1 conversation.

Phase 3: Resource Delivery

  • Community Resource Corps members called the PHLConnectED eligible residents from Phase 2 a third time to confirm the residents received the resource and were satisfied with it. 
  • CRC members then followed up with the residents on any additional resources they requested help connecting to.

Throughout the three phases of outreach, the CRC was able to document and address concerns experienced by CRC members and Philadelphia residents relating to the process of and barriers to connecting to City resources and services. The collaborative partnership between the CRC and PHLConnectED created a space to identify common barriers to resource connection that many City agencies and departments experience such as language barriers, the need for multiple methods of contact, and the need for in-person support when applying for resources. 

Community Resource Corps members and staff learned a lot through this first official partnership with PHLConnectED, and are excited to apply lessons learned to improve future City resource connection  with residents. “It has been extremely gratifying helping members of our community to get connected with PHLConnectED, because in today’s world internet service is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity”, shared Christian Talman, CRC member

The Community Resource Corps is grateful to PHLConnectED for this partnership and for the work PHLConnectED does to provide an equitable, essential, and life-sustaining resource that directly benefits the lives of Philadelphians. The CRC is currently partnering with the Philadelphia Water Department to connect residents with their utility assistance programs.