PHILADELPHIA – The Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO) today announced 30 recipients of its Community Champions Awards & Grants Challenge, an initiative to support grassroots nonprofit organizations and individuals that have served vulnerable Philadelphians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Twenty organizations will receive a total of $325,000, with grants ranging from $12,500 to $20,000. To qualify, organizations had to be based in Philadelphia, have annual budgets under $1 million, and serve Philadelphians with low incomes. Ten community members who engaged in meaningful volunteer activity to serve their communities during the pandemic were also chosen to receive $2,500 in one-time financial assistance. Community members had to have a financial hardship and be nominated by a nonprofit organization, elected official, faith-based institution, or City commission/board.

“Black and brown communities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Philadelphia and across the nation, so CEO is focused on ensuring an equitable recovery by investing in organizations that are led by and serving people of color,” said Executive Director Mitchell Little. “These organizations intimately understand the needs of their communities and are best equipped to address them. By lifting up those groups that are already on the ground, doing the work, CEO hopes to help them sustain those efforts.”

Casa de Venezuela, one of the recipients, has been providing COVID-19 education and vaccine access to the growing Venezuelan community throughout the pandemic. Emilio Buitrago, founder and board member of Casa de Venezuela Philadelphia, said: “The Community Champions grant will help Casa de Venezuela tremendously. As a volunteer-driven small non-profit organization, we care and make use of every single dollar like it is the last dollar we have. In addition to the current work Casa de Venezuela is doing to educate the LatinX community about the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, the grant will help us to also create an emergency fund to help Venezuelans arriving to our area, many literally arriving to our city with nothing but just a backpack and lots of hope.”

Twin Sisters Docs Foundation, Inc., another recipient, has been providing vaccine clinics and mentoring workshops in primarily Black and Latinx neighborhoods. Dr. Rolanda McDonald-Johnson, a co-founder of the organization, added: “We are very grateful to Community Champions for this grant, which will help support our community work. We intend to use the grant money to fund our COVID-19 vaccine clinics in various Philadelphia charter schools during summer school sessions. In addition, we will continue our COVID-19 education awareness campaign as children prepare to go back to school.”

Other services provided by the nonprofit recipients include but are not limited to: violence prevention and trauma-informed care, arts programming for youth, mutual aid projects, housing support, and mental health treatment.

A total of 108 organizations applied for the program. Entries were reviewed and scored by a Selection Committee comprised of City employees, community leaders, and nonprofit leaders. The Selection Committee’s work ensured that funded groups included representation of Philadelphia’s diverse communities, including groups that serve the LGBTQ community, refugees and immigrants, seniors and youth, as well as groups that serve Black, Latino/a/x, and Asian American residents. Twenty organizations advanced to online voting, with the top 10 vote-getters receiving grants of $20,000 and the runners-up receiving $12,500.

Twenty-seven community members were nominated for awards. The 10 winners were chosen by the Selection Committee.

Funding was provided by the CARES Act and distributed by the Utility Emergency Services Fund (UESF).

Images and videos are available here.


Our Closet Brewerytown Sharswood Community Civic Assoc.
Small Things The ECO Foundation
Philadelphia Young Playwrights The Common Place
We Love Philly Sankofa Healing Studio
Germantown United Community Development Corp. Mi Salud Wellness Center
SOWN Frontline Dads
Hand2Paw Coalition of African Communities (AFRICOM)
Power of Paint Art Academy & Management Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia
Twin Sister Docs Foundation Haitian-Americans United for Change
Casa de Venezuela Philadelphia GALAEI

*Bold = Received grants of $20,000


Doris Jean Hackney Wanda Johnson
Patrice Rogers Willard McGruder
Ericka Stewart Bettye Ferguson
Houston Gambrell Mbacke Thioune
Rev. Dr. John K. Jallah Miranda Alexander

About the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO)
CEO provides leadership on issues of economic justice by advancing racial equity and inclusive growth to ensure that all Philadelphians might share in the city’s prosperous future. It serves as the Community Action Agency (CAA) for the City of Philadelphia. As a CAA, CEO awards Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds to more than 20 programs that serve an estimated 40,000 residents each year, with a focus on benefits access, financial empowerment, housing security, and other priorities that may emerge over time.