In the heart of Erie’s Little Italy is an organization that’s been revitalizing the neighborhood for more than two decades and has expanded its influence to Erie’s eastside.
The Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network (SSJNN) was established 23 years ago to meet the needs of impoverished residents of Erie’s Little Italy neighborhood, with the goal of revitalizing that blighted neighborhood.
Since then, the SSJNN has grown and now extends from Cranberry Street to East Avenue, 12th to 26th streets.
“Our mission is to revitalize our neighborhoods and empower the people. We have 13 programs ranging from a bike program to helping with food insecurities, a soup kitchen, a seasonal farmers market every June through September and we have grants that enable us to match all WIC and SNAP benefits. You name it, if it’s helping our people, we’re all about it,” said Jennifer Kennedy, SSJ Neighborhood Network.
One of the many visible programs of the neighborhood network is community gardens, like on in Little Italy.
“We have 13 gardens so part of our mission in revitalizing neighborhoods is providing green spaces and gardens. That garden in particular is one where our neighbors can come and have their own plot, so we provide urban farming,” Kennedy added.
The neighborhood network also provides tutoring and a wide variety of enrichment programs for youth. On the city’s east side, the ministry is helping to forge bonds of friendship and trust between neighbors, one block at a time.
“For us to be able to deliver Loving Giving Local to the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Network, we know they give back to the community. They revitalize neighborhoods, and we know this money today is gonna stay here in this neighborhood. The Sisters of St. Joseph have been giving back for years, and we’re happy to be a part of it. We know they are going to use it for one of their great programs,” said Joe Askins, sponsor, Auto Express Resale Center.
“We are always in need of volunteers, always in need of donors and always in need of those who can help us in our mission,” Kennedy continued.