The Northwest Reading neighborhood comprises a few formal community organizations. Both Opportunity House and the Children’s Home of Reading are considered health and human service organizations. They provide individuals who face difficult life circumstances with a chance to improve the quality of their lives. Our City Reading is a nonprofit advocacy organization whose mission is to provide first time home buyers with stability, bring high quality job opportunities to the area, and enhance the overall quality of life in Reading.
Opportunity House started in November 1984 as an outreach of local churches that used church basements to house homeless people. The organization then bought a permanent location on 430 North 2nd street in 1986. Since then, Opportunity House has added additional services which include the Second Street Learning Center, the Children’s Alliance Center, and the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (Opportunity House, n.d.).
By the mid 1990’s, Opportunity House began teaching independence skills to low-income adults by providing lessons on life skills, money management, and case management. Around the same time, Second Street Learning Center was established as a daytime program, and by 2000 it had become the only 24/7 community childcare center in Pennsylvania. In 2004, the Children’s Alliance Center was created to partner with other organizations so that children would always have a safe place to live. In 2012, the Supportive Services for Veteran Families was established to assist veterans who were at risk of homelessness (Opportunity House, n.d.).
Children’s Home of Reading
Children’s Home of Reading (CHOR) was founded in 1884 when the City of Reading opened a daytime nursery to help single mothers. It began on Franklin Street (outside of Northwest Reading), but expanded to the “Home for Friendless Children” on Centre Ave in 1888 when the nursery began caring for parentless children (The Children’s Home of Reading, n.d.).
The Home for Friendless Children was renamed the Children’s Home of Reading in 1947, as its services through the Depression and the World Wars broadened, including mental health counseling, temporary housing, education, and more recently, drug counseling. A number of community-based organizations branch out from the Children’s Home, including the Berks Parents Services Collaborative Program, a committee established in 1991 to assist mothers with alcohol and drug issues (The Children’s Home of Reading, n.d.).
Our City Reading
Our City Reading (OCR) was founded in 1999 by Al Boscov. The nonprofit was started to combat the problem of abandoned properties throughout various parts of the city. In Northwest Reading, a number of developments have taken place under OCR. The organization primarily purchases properties that are abandoned or unfit, refurbishes them, and sells them to first-time homebuyers who live and work in Reading. According to their website, OCR’s projects in the area include the GoggleWorks Apartments, an expansion of the GoggleWorks, and (according to Tom McMahon) a playground for Northwest Elementary School. Our City Reading has also been instrumental in bringing a number of businesses to the Northwest Reading area, such as Sun Rich Fresh Fruit and Hydrojet, as well as the surrounding area including KVP Falcon and Quaker Maid Meat in the Shillington area (Our City Reading, Inc., n.d.).