Long before Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream speech” and the idea of a “Day of Service” became popular, eight women in Philadelphia had an idea. In October, 1914, surrounded by a depressed economy, high unemployment, and a war erupting in Europe, these women decided they needed to help alleviate the suffering here and abroad.
Thus began The Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania, an organization that, while tweaked throughout its history, has lasted close to 100 years.
The Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania (EA) began in a tiny house on Walnut Street in Philadelphia. Those eight women enlisted the help of family and friends to raise money, clothes and supplies and ship them overseas, to European countries in need.
Then, when the United Stated entered the War, they set up a Home Relief Division, a pre-cursor to the Red Cross, to help with emergencies closer to home, including outbreaks of flu and polio.
They sold over $68 million in war bonds.
EA established the first girls’ trade school in Philadelphia to teach unemployed women the skills they needed to obtain jobs.
And they continued their work overseas, opening service clubs for local servicemen and serving in the war zone in any way they were able.
During World Ward II, The Emergency Aid of PA had over 3,000 members, with women serving as hospital volunteers, raising funds for programs in the area, and researching projects they felt needed their attention and help. It became one of the largest women’s organizations in the Philadelphia area.
Throughout the years, EA has met each crisis that arose with speed and efficiency. Their policy was to render service until another agency was able to take over.
By the early 1980s, many of the programs started by EA had been taken over by professional organizations, as Philadelphia had more than doubled in size.
With decreasing membership, and fewer volunteers, EA decided to become a foundation in 1984. However, its members were determined to keep the spirit and tradition of its past alive.
With this in mind, The Emergency Aid Foundation of Pennsylvania was formed, with a mission to “improve the lives of women and children by providing grants to effective non-profit organizations and to encourage education, leadership and community service in young women through mentoring and by awarding scholarships.”
The Foundation has awarded over $1.7 million in grants since it was set up in 1984, with emphasis on those organizations that aid women and children.
It continues to encourage young girls with its Founders Award, which is given each year to approximately 20 9th grade girls in high schools in Southeastern Pennsylvania who have been nominated by their principals or school counselors and display high levels of service and leadership in their school and community.
The girls spend the next three years participating in seminars sponsored by EA on such relevant topics as self-esteem and time management, as well as continuing their service hours with trips to local Senior Centers and the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia.
Since its inception, over 500 girls have received this award and benefitted from the generosity, knowledge and tradition of this century-old organization.
EA has also awarded over $425,000 in scholarship over the years to 140 Founder Award recipients to help pay for college.
A Mentoring Program was set up in which scholarship winners are paired with an EA member to help guide and mentor them throughout their college years and beyond, forging friendships that will last a lifetime.
The Emergency Aid of PA tradition, started almost 100 years ago by those eight women, continues to aid those in need in the Philadelphia area, and beyond.
To find out more about this inspiring organization, please check out its website: www.eafoundation.org.