Whether volunteering time to a civic, mentoring children or working behind a cause, many with local ties are making our neighborhoods a better place to live.
“Woo, I’m a South Philly Difference Maker,” Mitch Little said when he was informed of his selection as his son Ethan, 5, screamed with delight.
The single father may be a Difference Maker to his boy, but also is changing the lives of those throughout Point Breeze and Grays Ferry.
After briefly working as a financial advisor, Little switched paths to do what was instilled in him while growing up in West Philly.
“I remember just being, at a very young age, just walking out of the house and doing for others and knowing you were part of a fabric of human kind,” Little, who was named to the Mayor’s Commission on African-American Males last month, said.
The Penn State University grad settled in at Diversified Community Services, 1529 S. 22nd St. (then at 1210 and 1226 S. Broad St.), nine years ago as a social worker. He also ran some of the nonprofit’s programs and worked his way up to deputy director about three years ago.
“You can say I live here because I probably spend more time here than I do at home because I really love the people and I love the neighborhood,” the Northeast Philly resident said.
A typical day on the job for the 37-year-old isn’t so typical. He may be creating programs for teens or ex-offenders, meeting with the mayor to curb violence, teaming up with Universal Companies, 801 S. 15th St., on the Promise Neighborhoods Initiative or even cutting the grass at the office.
“I’ve just been sitting around,” he said jokingly. “It’s kind of crazy thinking of this. Man, I’m tired.”
However, some past successful programs have been eliminated.
“It’s really some of the tragedy in doing some of this work. You’re on to something … and someone at a desk somewhere says, ‘this is a line item that is a justifiable cut,’” Little said of Adolescent Violence Reduction Program, which targeted at-risk youth and first-time offenders, but was cut in 2007.
Regardless, he continues to do his part creating programs like Hoops for Life, which ties sports with life skills, and Youth Entrepreneurship Program, which allows teens to run a water ice business. And with Ethan by his side, Little will continue to address the neighborhood’s issues.
“You won’t ever say that this kid won’t know or hasn’t experienced what it’s like to be an active, social citizen, and I think that’s one of the biggest lessons I want to pass on to him,” he said.
Contact Managing Editor Amanda L. Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 117.
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