PHILADELPHIA – The two dozen teens who packed into 2305 North Broad Street on Halloween evening were a little old for a 1-year-old birthday party. But the event recipient was the Central Division Community Evening Resource Center (CERC), operated by the Institute for the Development of African-American Youth (IDAAY). Over in Germantown, more than a dozen young people celebrated at 100 West Coulter Street. This is the site of the Juvenile Justice Center (JJC), which operates the CERC in the Northwest Division. Both CERCs are funded by the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, under the City’s Office of Children and Families (OCF). The two CERCs opened on October 31, 2022.

The Central Division CERC marked its first full year of operation with cake, balloons, memories, and speeches. At the Northwest Division CERC, youth dressed in Halloween costumes, painted pumpkins, and played pool and video games. Both sites received over-sized, colorfully decorated, and signed happy anniversary cards from City of Philadelphia staff.

“We envisioned a place where young people could find needed resources and structured supervised activities,” said Vanessa Garrett Harley, Deputy Mayor for OCF. “Where they would be exposed to more opportunities for positive development and fewer opportunities for risky behavior.”

Open from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., the CERCs are available for youth who would otherwise be in violation of the City’s curfew by being on City streets.

A major initiative of City Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson, the CERC program kicked off in 2022 and has since expanded to six sites across the city. Collectively, the CERCs have served 1,061 youth and received more than 9,500 visits by young people.

“I am extremely proud of the work our Community Evening Resource Centers are doing across the entire City of Philadelphia,” said Councilmember Gilmore Richardson. “Last year, I introduced legislation to make major investments in our communities and our children by creating the CERCs. We know that now more than ever, young people need safe and accessible spaces to have fun and just be themselves. With six CERCs across Philadelphia, we are able to make a positive impact in the lives of our children and families year-round.”

When asked about the CERC program, Brooke, a youth who came to the JJC’s event dressed as an angel, said, “It’s very entertaining. We get to play games on computers and just relax.” Fellow party-goer Marcus added, “They help me with my homework, and they help me grow up – and grow!”

The Central Division CERC has served nearly 200 young people since opening with offerings like gaming, driver’s education, group discussions, mentoring, workshops, family night, movies, dinner or just to rest.

IDAAY Executive Director Archye Leacock thanked staff and participants. The Central Division CERC said in the past year it had seen a reduction in curfew violations, more positive attitudes around issues of violence, and increased awareness about community support. The Center works with young visitors to improve educational outcomes, family interactions, and relationships with law enforcement.

“To this,” Deputy Mayor Garrett Harley said, “we say Happy birthday, and many more!”

Photos: Check out event photos here. Photo credit and captions are included in each photo.