Café Renata owners: “We will be back!”; fundraiser at The Bar(n)

Posted on 16 March 2015 by


Cafe Renata owners, Yasser Aiq and Kate Steenstra, at the cafe (archive photo, West Philly Local).

As many of you know, an overnight fire destroyed Café Renata at 43rd and Locust and injured a neighbor last Thursday. Café Renata co-owners, Kate Steenstra and Yasser Aiq, are safe, but heartbroken over the fire and are still assessing the damage. A lot of support has poured in to them from the community members, which Katie and Yasser are very grateful for.

“Our neighbors and friends have been so supportive of us during all of this and we are so grateful for their encouragement and hugs. We are lucky to be part of such a loving community,” Katie wrote in an email.

While it is still unknown when the popular Spruce Hill coffee and brunch shop will reopen here’s some encouraging news from Katie:

“After taking a few days of reflection Yasser and I would like to tell our friends and customers that we are so encouraged by their support and love the past few days. Without them, Renata would never have been the vibrant café it was. We are looking forward to your continued support during our rebuilding efforts. We will be back!”

If you would like to support Katie and Yasser, visit Cafe Renata’s Facebook page and leave a message. We’re also sharing information about a fundraiser for Café Renata this Thursday, March 19, at The Bar(n) (49th and Catharine) in Cedar Park. The Barn and Wyndridge Farms are teaming up for the Café Renata Tap Takeover Fundraiser where Wyndridge Farms brew will be hooked up to all four of The Barn’s taps. Admission fee is $10 at the door, but guests will get their first brew for free. All drafts will be $3. All of the door and draft proceeds will go to the owners of Café Renata. The event will take place from 6 p.m. – 2 a.m. Check The Barn’s Facebook page for updates.

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Storytelling Slam to benefit free youth storytelling class

Posted on 06 January 2015 by

storytelling_slamYouth from around the city have a unique chance this winter to learn storytelling basics at a free six-week long class. The class, presented by Project Arts, kicks off next week and culminates in a performance on Feb. 16.

This Wednesday, Project Arts and RISK!, a wildly popular storytelling podcast with hundreds of thousands of listeners and millions of downloads, present a Storytelling Slam contest to benefit the class. Young people ages 16 and up will compete in the contest, and 30 percent of the funds raised at the event will provide cash prizes for the top three winners. The show organizers are asking for a $5-$15 donation.

The storytelling class is also a chance for local young people to be heard and share their experiences with others. The project is “part art and part healing work,” according to Project Arts director Rich Wexler (more information about the class is available at:

The Storytelling Slam will take place at The Rotunda (40th and Walnut), on Wednesday, Jan. 7, from 7 – 10 p.m.

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‘Microbirth’ film screening on Tuesday to support free childbirth classes

Posted on 10 November 2014 by

microbirth-A3-poster1There will be a great event this Tuesday to support free childbirth classes in the area. Microbirth, a brand new documentary looking at childbirth through the lens of a microscope and raising awareness of the importance of “seeding the baby’s microbiome,” will be screened. All proceeds from the screening will benefit childbirth classes offered by the Helen O. Dickens Clinic at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

In addition to free childbirth classes, the clinic provides birth balls, sleep sacks, baby books, and healthy snacks to attendees, mostly low-income families.

The film will be followed by a discussion panel with Penn/CHOP faculty and researchers, and there will also be concessions and a lot of fun items to raffle off. Suggested donation is $5-$20 (click here to buy tickets).

West Philly community members are welcome to attend this event. “The film is awesome, and it would be great for everyone to see,” writes Nicole Chaney, one of the event organizers and the Dickens Clinic staff member.

The event will be held at the University of Pennsylvania (Hall of Flags, Houston Hall, 3417 Spruce St), from 5:45 – 10 p.m. Check out the event’s Facebook page.

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Neighborhood institution needs some help: Walk on Saturday to help Calvary Center

Posted on 05 November 2014 by

Calvary UMCThe Calvary Center for Culture and Community, the beautiful old church building at 48th and Baltimore, needs some help. Over the last decade the building has undergone some critical restoration, which gave it a new vibrant life, but a lot of work still remains to be done. Current plans include construction of an elevator in the western section of the tower to accommodate neighbors on wheelchairs or with other physical difficulties. Several other major improvements, renovations, repairs and restorations are also planned.

The center, which hosts a myriad of activities each year and also is home to many community, art, religious, educational, social justice and other organizations, was recently offered a $100,000 challenge grant by the Wyncote Foundation. This amount has to be matched by the end of the year. The center was able to raise almost all of the match, but a few thousand dollars are still remaining. So here’s how you can help:

On Saturday, Nov. 8, come to the “Raise the Roof” Walkathon for Calvary Center. The 5 km walk around the neighborhood will start and end at the center. Participation fee is $25 ($10 for children) and you can register online here before the event or at the event itself (for $35), beginning at 9 a.m. on Nov. 8 at the 48th Street entrance to the building. The walk will be from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., followed by a celebration of its completion (12 – 1 p.m.). The event will take place rain or shine.

Here’s a reminder of what organizations are located at Calvary Center: Cedar Park Neighbors, the University City Historical SocietyWest Philly Mennonite Fellowship, Kol Tzedek West Philly Synagogue, Calvary United Methodist Church, Grace Chapel, Children’s Community School, Curio Theatre, Crossroads Music, and more! These and other organizations will participate in Saturday’s event and encourage their members and all neighbors to join them.

If you can’t participate in the walkathon, you can support the center by making a donation online (please go here) or by sending a check to: Calvary Center, 801 S. 48th Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19143.

“Raise the Roof” Walkathon for Calvary Center
48th and Baltimore
Saturday, Nov. 8, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. (registration starts at 9 a.m.)
$25 online (children $10), $35 at the event


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West Philly weekend: Fall festivals, tree giveaway, Day of the Dead, Hot Taco Massacre

Posted on 31 October 2014 by


Photo by Eva Jacobs.

This weekend is not only about Halloween (that said, you can check Halloween events here). A bunch of other fun community events are being held this Saturday and Sunday, including food-centered events (End of Season Fall Market, Vegan Day celebration, a taco fundraiser), a tree giveaway and a couple of fall festivals. For more upcoming events or if you want to submit an event, go to our Event listings.


Saturday, Nov 1 

• End of Season Market Celebration & Tree Giveaway

Neighborhood Foods Farm (53rd & Wyalusing), 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.


Photo courtesy Urban Tree Connection.

Urban Tree Connection (UTC) and Neighborhood Foods (NF) invite neighbors to an end-of-season market, featuring fall farm produce, $3 chicken platters (cooked by NF Coop Members Gale and Nicole) with potluck sides, vendors, and giveaways: recycling bins and yard trees provided thanks to a grant from TreePhilly. You can also bring your own food or items to sell. There will be 50 trees available for property owners with yards – an open (unpaved) area on private property – and are absolutely free. They come with a free planting demonstration, educational materials, and a bag of mulch from the Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center. Several species will be available, ranging from large shade trees to medium-sized trees to smaller fruit trees. A full list of available species can be found here. To reserve your tree and for species list, contact Karen: 215‐900‐1292 or 


• Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) Celebration

Penn Museum (3260 South Street), 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

DayoftheDead 5

Photo courtesy Penn Museum.

This Saturday, the Penn Museum presents the third annual Day of the Dead Celebration. Throughout Mexico and around the world, Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) brings family and friends together to pray for and remember loved ones who have died. The celebration includes pageantry, traditional music and dance, storytelling and puppetry, paper maché artistry, sugar skull and mask making, face painting, special foods and more.

Guests can also view colorful altars (ofrendas) designed by regional community groups, and a large Day of the Dead altar created by the Mexican Consulate in Philadelphia and the Mexican Cultural Center, co-organizers of the event, with the help of local artist Cesar Viveros. The event is free with Penn Museum admission ($15, general admission; $13, seniors [65+]; $10, children [6-17] and full-time students [with ID]; $2 ACCESS Card holders; free to children under 5, members, active U.S. Military, STAMP and PennCard holders). For more information, go hereContinue Reading

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Books Through Bars hosting workshop, speakers, fundraiser on incarceration issues

Posted on 17 October 2014 by Mike Lyons

Books-Through-Bars-LogoAn important discussion about incarceration has gained traction nationally in recent years and an important facilitator in that discussion locally is the organization Books Though Bars.

The group’s primary mission is to obtain, pack and ship books to inmates in the region, a volunteer-heavy activity they have been doing in West Philly for more than 20 years. There is a chance this Saturday to be part of this ongoing conversation, meet people from Books Through Bars and other organizations engaged in incarceration issues and raise a little money to keep their work going.

Books Through Bars is hosting a fundraiser tomorrow (Oct 18) at the LAVA Space at 4134 Lancaster Ave, beginning at 2 p.m. The event will feature free workshops and speakers (2 to 6 p.m.) from the following organizations: Decarcerate PA, Hearts on a Wire, The Center for Returning Citizens, HRC, Books Through Bars Address This!, and DreamActivist PA. After that there will be a rockers show (6-10 p.m.) hosted by MMGZ.

Please bring $5-8 to donate at the event. Also, Books Through Bars’ Business, Science and Math shelves are pretty empty right now, so if you have any books that you don’t need please bring them to tomorrow’s event or to the A-Space where the organization is located (4722 Baltimore Ave).

For more information, check out the Books Through Bars Facebook page.


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