Time magazine has been singling out a Person of the Year for 94 years.
Its first, in 1927, was aviator Charles Lindbergh for making the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, followed by all kinds of famous and infamous people.
This is my inaugural @NotesFromHel People of the Year list. You’ll notice it is people, not person, because it really does take a village around here, and also, no one is rich or famous, at least not yet. Though, I’d keep a close eye on the driven Parkway Center City Middle College students, which is why I’m starting my list with a hearty shout-out to them.
We go back, these students and I. In 2018 I walked into Parkway to listen to ninth graders read essays about how gun violence impacted their lives. That moment turned into a movement that has continued even after many of the students I knew best graduated. After taking a pandemic-related hiatus, Parkway students returned to their community-building and fund-raising in November and organized a flag football tournament with police officers from the 17th District to build goodwill — and to raise more than $4,000 for Moms Bonded by Grief. (The students want to make this a yearly, citywide event, and we need to help them make that happen.)
You’ve likely heard about the Moms more than a few times if you’ve regularly read my column, and that’s because, as I’ve long said, this isn’t just a column, it’s a community. As such, members of this community are apt to make repeat appearances when they create or grow ways to make life better in our city. That includes the first retreat for children impacted by gun violence organized by the Moms, where about 50 children enjoyed an August weekend getaway in the Poconos. They were there to have some carefree fun away from the city, but also to begin to heal from the trauma of losing some of the most important people in their lives.
Trauma blankets Philadelphia, and much of it is due to guns, which is why the frontline work done by Temple University Hospital’s trauma victims support advocates is so vital. Since its inception in 2019, the program has served more than 1,100 victims of crime by immediately connecting them to services.
My hope is that one day soon this model, created by Scott Charles, the hospital’s trauma outreach manager, is replicated in all hospitals. But if there is one thing that I love about this city is that it’s filled with people who don’t wait around to do what needs to be done. That’s how we have places like the Greater Philadelphia Diaper Bank, started in Pat Kennedy’s garage in 2011 after the former teacher at Newtown Friends School learned that a lot of programs gave struggling mothers food but not diapers. The diaper bank has distributed more than 7 million diapers and counting since its inception.
That kind of get-it-done-because-it-must-be-done mentality is also why Mykia Capers, whose 28-year-old son Brandon Baylor was shot and killed in 2016, began holding fund-raisers and fish fries to help mothers whose children’s homicides remained unsolved raise billboards in the hopes that people might come forward with information.
I write about a lot of things in a space that I am privileged to have as the only Latina columnist at this paper — public officials who need to be better and do better, residents who deserve ... more, Philly gems like SEPTA Bus Driver Doo and Aijee the street cellist.
But without readers — the MVPs of my People of the Year list — this column would just be a collection of words that don’t amount to much.
There isn’t a story I write about a wrong that needs to be righted, a person in need, a cause that needs to be taken up where you, readers, aren’t right there, asking: What can we do? How can we help? And you do — consistently, compassionately and with the kind of open hearts that may not completely silence the trolls who keep coming up with ways to get rid of me (they’re still trying to send me “back” to countries I’m not from) but that renders them irrelevant.
Now, this last entry is more personal, but I hope you’ll indulge me. Without doctors diagnosing and treating my husband’s cancer this year, specifically James Ryan Mark at Jefferson Hospital and David E. McGinnis at Main Line Health, my family would not be as cautiously hopeful — knock on wood — for a healthier 2022.
Anyway, this is far from an exhaustive list, but it represents the kind of people that I’m happy to have in my corner of the world. Everyone’s gotta have people. And you guys are my kind of people.