The City of Philadelphia will receive $1.4 billion in two installments to support the households, businesses and communities most impacted by the pandemic as part of the American Rescue Plan. Please Touch Museum President & CEO Patricia D. Wellenbach provided testimony to City Council, advocating for bold funding priorities to support the children of Philadelphia who have been significantly impacted by the pandemic.
“Thank you for the opportunity to testify this afternoon. My name is Trish Wellenbach and I serve as the President and CEO of the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia’s Parkside neighborhood.
For 56 weeks, Please Touch Museum was closed due to COVID-19. No excited laughter or joyful play was heard in the City of Philadelphia’s Memorial Hall for more than a year. Often, the silence in our building took my breath away.
But what I quickly realized was that our Museum needed to demonstrate the type of resiliency that we teach our children. While our doors were closed, Please Touch Museum’s heart needed to be open to our Parkside community. And so, we pivoted, partnered, and piloted deeply meaningful programs during our closure.
We launched an Artist Year partnership with AmeriCorps for the Philadelphia School District.
We welcomed 44 School District students to Please Touch Museum as a remote learning center in Parkside when neither their school nor their local recreation center could be opened.
And working with PNC and The GIANT Company, we delivered thousands of children’s backpacks filled with books, games, art supplies, and snacks. Through these backpacks, we sought to address the learning loss, food insecurity, and social isolation, which so many children experienced during to COVID.
We met our Parkside community exactly where they were with exactly what they needed from us.
Now, as Please Touch Museum reopens, we are overwhelmed by the happy return of children to Memorial Hall. But we also recognize that our Museum is needed now more than ever before. The children of this city have suffered a trauma that will define their childhood, especially our littlest ones. As their grown-ups, we need to help them begin to process the experience of extended social distancing and virtual learning while exploring how to positively re-engage in the world around them.
In this moment, when the City is receiving once-in-a-generation stimulus funding, I would ask City Council to be bold in its funding priorities. Wherever possible, focus your effort on supporting the children of this city whether through education, arts and culture, parks and recreation or other programs that will help them reconnect with the world and recover from a lost year of childhood.
Be the grownups they need you to be and for this budget cycle, consider Philadelphia’s children your most important constituent.”