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When little things mean a lot

April 9, 2021 Category: FeaturedMediumPurpose
When you’re a young adult, being financially independent can be hard going.

Now, thanks to a gift from Philadelphia 76er Joel Embiid, Philly’s Youth Services Inc. (YSI) will be able to extend assistance to teenagers even after they leave YSI  shelters.

The $25K donation came as an unexpected surprise to Gwendolyn Bailey, executive director of YSI. When she got the news Bailey said she was “in awe.”

“What this will do is really provide some support to young adults, and young people who are struggling,” she said.

The money is part of Embiid’s recent NBA All Star Game winnings donated to local nonprofits serving those experiencing homelessness. The 76er’s owner group has pledged to match the donation.

“I felt it was important to provide more support for individuals and families struggling with homelessness and food insecurity,” Embiid said in a statement. He cited the support of Philadelphia and his fans as a driving force behind giving back to the community.

Bailey said that the basketball team has previously  contributed to YSI through coat drives and Christmas gifts, but that this donation will enable YSI to offer support to teenagers even after they’ve left the program.

YSI sees around 300 young adults a year, and about a quarter of them stay in touch after they leave. Even more stay in contact with other young adults from YSI, or YSI staff through social media.

Embiid’s gift will allow YSI to continue and expand their mission providing not only the kind of advice a family might give, but also financial support. Bailey thinks that’s fitting. After all, the community around the shelter, the staff and the young adults, could rightly be considered family.

YSI already provides intangible support, things like helping young adults talk to a landlord or look over the terms of lease to make sure it’s fair. Now the organization has money to provide more tangible support.

“There’s always some need for concrete items, duffle bags, some clothes and then always some food and some rent assistance,” Bailey said.

The money can also help those who have already left the program.

“One of the other realities that we’ve been able to help some young people with is [maybe] a security deposit for a space to live,” said Bailey. Many of the youth YSI works with don’t have the option of moving home if finances get tight.

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For the young adults who are YSI alums, trying to make money stretch to cover commuting to work, covering basic necessities, and unexpected costs like a work uniform can all jeopardize housing security — as can setbacks like an employer closing or hours of work being cut.

Embiid’s gift will help YSI provide things many people see as commonplace, but give young adults a bit of a safety net. Even having your own sheets and towels to take to college might not seem like luxuries, but they can be. Or having a duffle bag or suitcase so that children moving from place to place can carry their belongings in those instead of trash bags.

“Those are things that people take for granted,” said Bailey. “[But] young people who are really essentially living on their own without any support just don’t have [them].”

“I say this with absolute humility,” Bailey said. “There is always more need than there are resources.”

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