Myra Rodriguez, executive assistant to the COO of CPUP Surgery, coordinates her weekend plans, wondering if she’ll be getting groceries, painting, or going to her local park that upcoming Saturday. However, this is not just her personal routine. Alongside volunteers from her church, Rodriguez packs bags of food, adds fresh coats of paint to schools and community centers, and cleans up parks to help the Philadelphia community. It’s all part of Serve Saturday, a monthly service program created by the Block Church.
In the Serve Saturday outreaches, volunteers gather in underserved areas in the city to lead a variety of programs, ranging from giving out groceries, paying for gas and offering SEPTA key cards, to cleaning public spaces. Rodriguez was eager to be part of the program when she joined Block Church in 2018. Donating a few hours of her time each weekend, she was quickly appointed as one of the program’s leaders for her love of helping others. “I love people. I’m a people person,” Rodriguez said. “There’s great satisfaction and gratitude when I’m able to help the community.”
More than 100 volunteers assist with the Block Church’s various projects throughout the city each month, more recently providing hygiene kits and household cleaning products, like masks, Lysol wipes, and hand sanitizer, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dedicated to their motto “Revive Every Block,” the Block Church offers service programs at multiple locations in the city including northeast Philadelphia, Center City, and Passyunk in South Philadelphia. Volunteers also help at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, a shelter for homeless men. With support from a Penn Medicine CAREs grant, Serve Saturday will be able to extend their services to the Port Richmond area in North Philadephia.
To bring a sense of normalcy to neighborhoods amidst the pandemic, the church also hosted an outdoor Easter event for local families. Open to all, the socially distant event provided candy and toys for children, in addition to giving more than 36,000 pounds of food to individuals in the community.
“When we’re out there giving out food or helping with other projects, people will come up and ask if we can pray with them,” said Rodriguez. “We want to connect with people and give them hope in these uncertain times we are living.”