When students want to look for their “acre of diamonds,” they turn to Andrea Swan.
As the university’s community and neighborhood affairs director, Swan said she strives to bring students and local community organizations together.
“I can’t help but to be emotional when I talk about the work we do,” Swan said. “Our number one goal is to educate people, whether that be through our baccalaureate programs, nonprofit work, adult enrichment or our youth programs.”
Groups that work within the Office of Community Relations are referred to as “Acres of Diamonds,” the phrase famously coined by university founder Russell Conwell.
“Whenever student groups work on a project, we market it under the title Acres of Diamonds,” Swan said. “It’s just such a beautiful statement.”
On March 17, Temple students volunteered at Philabundance, a nonprofit food bank in Philadelphia. “I reached out to Philabundance to request slots for one of my student groups,” Swan said. “The National Council for Negro Women student group went there to help out.”
Taylor Austin, the president of the NCNW Temple chapter, was one such volunteer.
“We packaged boxes of cookies and crackers to be distributed in the community,” said Austin, a senior biochemistry major. “Volunteering teaches personal accountability, responsibility and collective accountability [and] to be responsible for those around us. We are here to not only get an education, but to be a help to someone else.”
“It’s important to give back to people – we are privileged to get the opportunity to go to college,” Stephanie Dingle, a NCNW member, said. “If we have the ability to help others in the area, we should.”
Swan said that she has also volunteered for Philabundance in the past.
“I volunteered at their Lehigh Avenue location, and it was one of the most impactful moments of my time here at Temple,” Swan said. “Families can come and pick out what they need like a supermarket, and seeing families taking advantage of this, it is very hard not to be moved.”
Swan is the adviser to four student groups, including the Temple University Community Service Organization, NCNW, the Residential Organization for Community Service and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“Our office does so much,” Swan said. “Temple Students also helped out in January on [Martin Luther King, Jr. Day] at Berean Presbyterian, and there was a great turnout.”
Greg Bonaparte is a general maintenance employee at 1300 Residence Hall and a trustee and member of Berean Presbyterian, located at North Broad and Diamond streets.
“For MLK day, Andrea sent us about 100 to 150 students,” Bonaparte said. “From every ethnic background, it was great to see everyone come out and help.”
Bonaparte has worked for Temple for 22 years, and he currently runs his own nonprofit organization, the Philadelphia Association of Former Gang Members and Friends.
“As a member of the community, I just want to give back,” Bonaparte said.
The next community relations event is Silver Lining, to be held by TUCSA on April 9 on Liacouras Walk. The event will honor those that are battling, have survived or have died from cancer.
“The walk is illuminated with paper lanterns, and it’s a very beautiful sight,” Swan said. “I just hope the wind cooperates with us this year.”
Swan said she believes nonprofits and Temple students are vital to the Philadelphia community.
“Poverty is more prevalent than it should be – nonprofits like Philabundance work hard to eradicate poverty,” Swan said. “People in this region will know there is a place they can go to receive food.”
Nina Depaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.