North Philadelphia pastor devotes decades to serving community

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WPVI) -- "Where you come from has nothing to do with who you become," said Alice Martin.

Martin grew up in North Philadelphia and always knew she wanted to give back to her neighborhood. Now, the community service devotee is a pastor, real estate agent, and executive director of the non-profit, Voice Community Economic Development Corporation.

"I understand the struggle that comes along with low income families, because I was also a single mother of three," said Martin, who is now a grandmother of 19. "And the children that we have here, they're our future."

For her latest initiative, Martin carved an all-purpose service center out of a former automobile facility at 3509 Old York Road. The second floor is currently under construction and will become a place of worship for her ministry. The first floor is currently home to a food pantry and several free or subsidized preschool options. They are partners with Pre-K Counts and PHLpreK. For children that do not qualify for either, they implement the Champion Program to make sure no one is turned away.

"I absolutely see confident, intelligent children eager to learn and not afraid of challenges," Martin said about her current students. Despite being 3 or 4 years old, they are already learning how to count in Spanish.

"But we don't just educate the children," she added. "We aid the families."

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the non-profit held weekly food and clothing drives to the community. Mrs. Martin specifically invited everyone even if they were not in need. Although new challenges have risen over the last two years, their goal is to never let a month go by without offering that same service.

"We also have our pantry back there, which is what we draw from to service the community and to prepare for the children," she said.

Despite having serviced her community for more than 30 years, Mrs. Martin is not slowing down.

"You have the power within you to turn your issues into experience," she said. "We can make change. Be the change that you want to see."

To learn more about Philadelphia Pre-K services, visit the city website.

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