12 of the most inspiring Philly stories you may have missed in 2018

Sports, politics, history, art — lots of good things happened this year.

amina-stand-crop
Max Marin / Billy Penn

The holidays are the best time to sit on the couch and enjoy the reads you’ve been bookmarking since January.

To get you warmed up, Billy Penn staff picked out some of the most inspiring articles we published throughout the year. These stories may have slipped your mind — or you may just enjoy reflecting on them again, even if you do remember all the details.

Here’s some of the joy, fun, goodness and hope you might have missed in 2018.

1. How 13 Eagles players give back to the community

NFL: NFC Championship-Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Bill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports

In the runup to the Super Bowl, BuzzFeed published an opinion piece that made the general case for why standing with Philadelphia was a vote against evil, but were more specific reasons to support the trophy-bound team. As is true again this season, many of the players chose to use their hefty salaries to do good in the community. Some did it by starting their own foundations, others by donating to various charities. Here’s how 13 of the championship-winning Eagles gave back.

 

2. Jason Kelce’s epic Eagles Super Bowl parade speech

kelcesuperbowl
Dan Levy

The entire city felt like winners at the Super Bowl victory parade, but the breakout star was Jason Kelce. The Eagles center borrowed a real Mummers costume from his hairdresser’s husband and spent the day singing and dancing with fans as the team followed the parade route. At the closing ceremonies, Kelce gave a rousing speech that fired up the entire city — and perfectly encapsulated Philadelphia’s defiant pride. We transcribed the epic pep talk so you could read it in all its insightful (and NSFW) glory.

 

3. Profile of Hannah Callowhill Penn, PA’s first and only woman leader

A portrait of Callowhill Penn was hung at the PA Governor's Office in 2015

A portrait of Callowhill Penn was hung at the PA Governor's Office in 2015

Commonwealth of PA

Hannah Callowhill Penn was a businesswoman, a peacekeeper, a political leader and an all-around baddie in a bonnet. She may have even been the reason why Pennsylvania exists today — it was at one point in precarious danger of being sold off to satisfy debts. Callowhill Penn even ran the colony for a full 14 years after her husband’s death. Why, then, does his legacy always trump hers?

 

4. Men arrested at Philly Starbucks decide not to sue the city, create scholarship instead

The Starbucks at 18th and Spruce

The Starbucks at 18th and Spruce

Google Street View

What happened to Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, the two young black men arrested without cause at a Rittenhouse Starbucks on April 12, incited much debate about racial profiling — but so far, there’s been mostly positive outcome. The men settled for an undisclosed amount with Starbucks, which implemented company-wide unconscious bias training and is now working to bring a “community store” with local sourcing to West Philly. With the city, the pair struck an agreement for a symbolic payment of $1 plus a pledge to develop and fund a $200,000 scholarship for students interested in entrepreneurship.

 

5. Venezuelans escaping their nation’s humanitarian crisis find hope in Philadelphia

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Flag: Beatrice Murch via Wikimedia Commons; Skyline: Mónica Marie Zorrilla

After worsening over the past several decades, the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela this year reached what some who fled called “indescribable” levels. More than 2,500 ex-pats have ended up in Philly, where they’ve found refuge and work to help their compatriots back home. Billy Penn spoke with several “Phillyzuelans” about their experiences, and the activist efforts of local nonprofit Casa de Venezuela. “Now that I’m in Philadelphia,” one man proclaimed, “no one can take me out of here.”

 

6. ‘Just a bunch of love’: What it’s like to be a foster parent in Philadelphia

Stephanie Laws (left) and her foster daughter, Anahi

Stephanie Laws (left) and her foster daughter, Anahi

Courtesy Stephanie Laws

In March, Philadelphia put out an “urgent call” to the population: the city needs more foster parents. More than 5,000 of the city’s children are currently in foster care, and the Department of Human Services said it needed at least 300 more families to fill that gap, and fast. To find out what it takes, we spoke with two women who are doing the work. It isn’t easy, their stories show, but the reward is lots and lots of love.

 

7. Philly developer opens addiction recovery center in memory of his son

Jon Orens (left) cuts the ribbon alongside nonprofit workers, marking the opening of the Daniel J. Orens Center for Life

Jon Orens (left) cuts the ribbon alongside nonprofit workers, marking the opening of the Daniel J. Orens Center for Life

Courtesy Jillian Bauer-Reese

With help from real estate developer Jon Orens, a handful of addiction nonprofits came together in June for the soft opening of a new recovery center on Ford Road. The Daniel J. Orens Center for Life is named for Orens’s son, who died of a drug overdose in 2016. Advocates called it the first of its kind in Philly because it plans to combine the resources of several nonprofits into the same physical space. Plus, there will be dogs.

 

8. The blue-collar success story behind Rocco’s, the popular Home Depot sausage shack

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla / Billy Penn

Those who’ve tried them agree: some of the best sandwiches in Philly hail from a tiny shack outside Home Depot. Despite the many accolades Rocco’s Sausages has racked up, there was almost no info out there about who owns the multiple outposts, or who came up with the idea of putting a grill outside home improvement stores in the first place. After several months of reporting and research, Billy Penn found the answer — and it’s a true blue-collar success story.

 

9. This father and son got stranded in Philly overnight. Instead of complaining, they danced.

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Pat Flynn / YouTube

When a canceled flight strands you in an unfamiliar city for a day, you have two choices: moan and groan or make the best of it. San Diego resident Pat Flynn chose the latter. In town to keynote the August Podcast Movement conference with his 8-year-old son in tow, Flynn turned his unexpected extra day here (sans luggage) into a miniature landmark tour. He and his son visited 10 iconic Philly spots, and did a dance at each one — there’s video to prove it.

 

10. How Temple Hospital helps Philly crime victims tap into federal funds

templeuniversity-hospital

Most people have no idea there’s free counseling and funds available to them after a crime. All Americans are entitled to those services under the federal Victims of Crime Act, but the standard method of letting them know is via a pamphlet mailed to their home address. In 2018, that’s not the most effective form of outreach. So three North Philly agencies teamed up with Temple Hospital to inform people in person, rather than via letter — and it appears to be working.

 

11. How a Syrian refugee found the American dream at Reading Terminal Market

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Max Marin / Billy Penn

When Amina Aliako started cleaning toilets and scrubbing floors part-time at Reading Terminal Market last year after fleeing her native Syria, the vendors there were her introduction to America. When management offered her a full-time janitorial job, she had a better idea — starting her own food stand. Last month, after navigating many hurdles to entrepreneurship as a newly settled refugee, she finally did it: Amina’s Foods has joined the melting pot inside the nation’s oldest indoor market.

 

12. Philly smashed the conventional wisdom that rain keeps people from the polls

vote-sidewalk
Instagram / @lgimblett / #billypenngram

When heavy storms were forecast for Nov. 6, the worry was it would depress turnout. That didn’t happen. More than 555,300 Philadelphians cast a ballot, per initial estimates, despite a whopping 1.62 inches of rain falling across the city. That’s a lot: this year was the second rainiest Election Day in Philly since 1950 — and voters smashed the conventional wisdom that bad weather would keep people from the polls.

 

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