National Thrift Week 2011

National Thrift Week 2011


National Thrift Week is a public education campaign from January 17-23. It seeks to bring together a broad coalition of citizen leaders who share an appreciation of thrift as the wise use of resources and a conviction that thrift is the friend of sustainable prosperity, broad economic opportunity, beautiful neighborhoods, and a healthy planet. A once-vibrant American social movement that started in 1916, National Thrift Week is both old and new.

Subject: Thrift

National Thrift Week 2011 in Review

Thrift is the social movement for the Great Recovery.”

—Gerard Cuddy, president, Beneficial Bank, the oldest and largest bank headquartered in Philadelphia

Thrift Tip of the Week: Organize a Thrift Committee or Thrift Club in your community. Members could include citizen leaders in banking, credit unions, financial education, business, community organization, green activism, education, religious communities, thrift stores, and others.

Register your Thrift Committee or Thrift Club onto the National Thrift Leaders Roster by e-mailing Local organizers will have an opportunity to participate in the creation of 2012 National Thrift Week events.

Fast Facts

  • The word "thrift" is derived from the word "thrive."
  • The first National Thrift Week organizers chose the starting date as January 17: the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, the "American apostle of thrift."
  • In 2011, the home of Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, becomes the first city since 1966 to celebrate National Thrift Week.
  • By 1928, because of the efforts of thrift leaders, 46 out of 48 states had school savings banks with net savings of more than $9,500,000.
  • In 2011, People For People Charter School, in partnership with People For People Community Development Credit Union, will make available limited-match savings accounts for their students.

What is National Thrift Week?

National Thrift Week is a public education campaign from January 17-23. It seeks to bring together a broad coalition of citizen leaders who share an appreciation of thrift as the wise use of resources and a conviction that thrift is the friend of sustainable prosperity, broad economic opportunity, beautiful neighborhoods, and a healthy planet. A once-vibrant American social movement that started in 1916, National Thrift Week is both old and new. In 2011, Philadelphia is leading the way in bringing back National Thrift Week, becoming the first city in nearly 50 years to proclaim Thrift Week.

Thrift is a big idea. To capture its complexity and richness, the 2011 National Thrift Week focuses on seven aspects of thrift:

Monday: Giving is Thrifty
Tuesday: Saving is Thrifty
Wednesday: Gardens are Thrifty
Thursday: Public Libraries are Thrifty
Friday: Cooperating is Thrifty
Saturday: Green is Thrifty
Sunday: Thrift Shops are Thrifty

Activities during 2011 Thrift Week in Philadelphia include:

  • January 17: In the spirit of thrifty volunteerism, William Penn Charter School and People For People Charter School will partner to do a service project on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
  • January 19: William Penn Charter School holds assembly on "Thrift and Social Justice."
  • January 21: Mayoral Press Conference announces Philadelphia as the first city to bring back National Thrift Week.
  • January 21: "Philadelphia Thrift Leaders Roundtable: Why Thrift? Why Here? Why Now?" Hosted by Dr. John Templeton of the John Templeton Foundation, the Rev. Dr. Herbert H. Lusk, II of People For People, Inc., and Gerard Cuddy of Beneficial Bank, the Roundtable brings together a diverse coalition of community leaders to discuss how citizen leaders can work together to renew Philadelphia by renewing thrift.

To learn more about National Thrift Week and its history, visit Check out the Facebook page,

Monday: Giving is Thrifty

The community nature of [promoting health] is a thrift concept – because we're all gaining by the power of community, of being together.”

—Susan Post, Executive Director

The community nature of [promoting health] is a thrift concept – because we're all gaining by the power of community, of being together.”

—Susan Post, Executive Director, Esperanza Health Center

Thrift Tip of the Day: Volunteer! This MLK Jr. Day, join thousands of others who will be giving their time, effort, and resources to serve others.

Fast Facts

Located in an area in North Philadelphia where:

  • 43 percent of households in this community live at or below 100 percent of the Federal poverty level
  • severe health disparities exist
  • eight of the ten poorest U.S. Census tracts in Philadelphia are located

The New Thrift Gives: Why Giving Is Thrifty

Volunteerism and involvement in one's community are key components of thrift: where you have people practicing thrift, you have people in solidarity, giving of themselves to one another. On this MLK Day – a day when many give their time to serve others in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. – this is a timely thrift lesson.

Esperanza Health Center demonstrates thrift by teaching patients to give back to their neighborhood through the community health promoters program. And, since thrift is the wise use of resources, and since health is a resource, to promote health is to promote thrift!

Learn More about Esperanza Health Center: An Interview with Susan Post, Executive Director of Esperanza Health Center, and Dr. Wendell Kellum, MD, Associate Medical Director

How are thrift and health related?

WK: I like that you are talking about health as a resource and a way of stewardship. Because that's what we're about. Sometimes people think that health is over here, and this is where I go to be given health. You know, this is where health is distributed. But health as a way of stewardship means that I make choices in my daily life, and that I have the control, power, and knowledge to take care of my health."

How does Esperanza help meet the needs of the community?

SP: One way is through the Community Health Promoters program, teaching people at a lay level to promote health in their communities, with their neighbors, in their churches, on their blocks. It teaches them general health information and things like taking blood pressures and ways to disseminate good information about health and preventative care."

How does the Community Health Promoters program work?

SP: Participants must attend 40 hours of class before getting their certificate. Each week a concept (taking blood pressure, dental hygiene, caring for newborn babies, healthy eating) is taught, and then promoters practice in their neighborhoods. The first session was taught in Spanish. Of the 40 people who began the program, 37 completed all the training!"

What are the advantages of this program?

WK: Sometimes you spend all your time and resources addressing things that would be better handled in prevention. For example, a lot of diabetes is related to lifestyle and dietary issues. With this program, there are ways that we can communicate that."

Do you have any stories about how this program has changed lives?

SP: One promoter (or graduate) does blood pressure from her house on Wednesdays. She sometimes gets a line of people out her house wanting to get their blood pressure checked. And again, it's not just getting the blood pressure checked, but it's going to her house, all being together, caring about health together."

"Also, [the crossing guard who became a health promoter] just cheers me on when she sees me on my bike . . . [and then she'll call out] 'It was a great class last night!'. . . . You just see an excitement in people, and it makes them want to be leaders in the community. It goes beyond the direct health care and information they are giving, and allows them to participate in the community in a new way, as leaders."

Why is the community approach to healthcare so affective?

SP: Health is not just the physical, it's the spiritual and the communal. It's about being together. Probably my eating habits are not about anything my doctor said to me. They're about my friend who's trying to eat this way, and it makes me want to do it too."

"And that's where this community health promoter program is not just about the job we give them, but about the message that we're all together, we're with them. The community nature of it all is – I think it really is a thrift concept – because we're all gaining by the power of community, of being together."

Tuesday: Saving is Thrifty

Our mission is to educate our customers to do the right thing financially. We present ourselves as an education company before we think of ourselves as a bank.”

—Gerard P. Cuddy, CEO

Thrift Tip of the Day: Buy a tax time savings bond with your tax refund.

Fast Facts

  • Founded in 1853 by Bishop John Neumann, now a canonized saint, as a place for working-class immigrants to save their money
  • Oldest and largest bank headquartered in Philadelphia
  • Online banking account holders get free access to FinanceWorks
  • Person Beneficial most admires: Benjamin Franklin

The New Thrift Saves: Why Saving is Thrifty

It was Benjamin Franklin, the "Apostle of Thrift," who first said "A penny saved is a penny earned." As Franklin understood, saving is the thrifty way to gain economic freedom and to avoid the servitude of debt.

Learn More about Beneficial Bank: An interview with Mr. Gerard Cuddy, CEO, and Ms. Joanne Ryder, Senior Vice President, Brand & Strategy

Beneficial started as a Savings Fund for Philadelphia's working class immigrants. What is the mission of the bank today?

GC: I think it's unchanged. The bank's vision is a Latin phrase, 'Vacere Comptus Verus' which means, 'Do what's right.' Our mission is to educate our customers to do the right thing financially. We present ourselves as an education company before we think of ourselves as a bank."

Tell me more about the two branches that you call "campuses" in Cherry Hill.

GC: If you were to walk into one of these it looks like a cross between a nice community library and an Apple store. And the first thing you meet, we think is kind of iconic – it's a blackboard. Not a whiteboard or video monitor or a plasma, but an old-fashioned blackboard that has something thought-provoking, typically oriented towards planning and savings."

JR: There's a Financial Learning Library and there are resource centers. The library is divided by life stages, so there are both books and iPads. There's a Little Learner's Corner, and there's a section called the Knowledge Bar, so you can actually just sit down and have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and learn about financial planning using free Wi-Fi. You can meet with employees who will help you develop a financial plan, and we also give out planning guides to customers, both adults and children. We also offer free workshops."

Will there be more campuses?

GC: Ultimately the goal is to make every branch a campus. It's almost like a philosophy or a theology – we're trying to get everyone in the same mindset."

What are your thoughts about saving?

GC: We say this everywhere we go – the very first step in making a financial plan is to have savings at the core. Forget the rate environment, forget what the stock market's doing – it really is just about a core fundamental discipline around savings to safeguard yourself, to make dreams possible."

What would you say to young people about saving?

GC: When we talk to high school juniors and seniors, we talk to them about targeted savings. So we hold up a pair of Nike shoes and we hold up an iPod and we talk to them about the credit card contrast. The Nikes are $99 on the credit card. That means you paid $192 for them if you just make the minimum payment. But if you save for that . . . first of all you've earned it, so you hold it more dear, and there is a sense of accomplishment. You've actually got something tangible that you will find over the course of your life you value more."

How do you encourage young people to save?

GC: The last thing that I'm holding on to right now from a rate standpoint is our campus savings account and student savers account. It's a great rate – it's 2 percent. And it's intentional. It aligns with our mission. We really do believe in teaching children to save at a young age and encouraging them to save."

How do you encourage adults to save?

JR: A lot of our products are designed according to the life stages. So it's student saver, then campus saver, and then you can migrate into our start earning account. This account helps you save by automatically transferring $25 into savings a month. And we have tiers so that once you reach certain savings goals, you get a greater amount of interest. Again, it's to reward people in their saving and to create that saving behavior."

We saw that Beneficial won the 2010 Corporate Champion Award for its long standing commitment to Philadelphia. How is Beneficial involved in the community?

GC: Big banks tend to give a lot of money, which is great, but we tend to give a lot of hours. We're disproportionally involved, just because of the history of the bank."

JR: We have a group of employees called the Blue-Gooders. Actually yesterday, Gerry was out with a group of our Blue-Gooders feeding lunch to the homeless. We're also working with Back on my Feet, which is a non-profit organization for homeless men. And once a month in our boardroom we actually conduct financial literacy classes. It's actually part of their curriculum. We teach them about budgeting and also about balancing their checkbooks."

How often do the Blue-Gooders volunteer?

JR: The Blue-Gooders have logged 650 hours of financial literacy by teaching classes in Philadelphia schools. We also participate in National Teach Children to Save Day in the spring and in National Credit Day in the fall. We read Three Cups, a book about savings, charity, and spending, to elementary school students."

Wednesday: Gardens are Thrifty

The kids learn planting and growing and harvesting their own foods. This past spring kids were picking cherry tomatoes off the vine and eating them. Most Kensington children aren't going to have experienced that.”

—Sister Karen Owens, SSJ, Director of CBCC

Thrift Tip of the Day: Find a community garden near you, or learn how to start one.

Fast Facts

  • In 1997, the land that Greensgrow Farm now occupies was a vacant & contaminated brownfield on the site of a former galvanizing plant. Today, Greensgrow has a nursery, a farm market, traditional and low-income CSAs [Community Supported Agriculture], and a shared, community kitchen.
  • In 2000, the land that the Cardinal Bevilacqua Community Center now occupies was an abandoned ballroom. Today, its multi-purpose community center includes a greenhouse and community garden.
  • Philadelphia has more than 400 community gardens.

The New Thrift Grows: Why Gardens are Thrifty

In the early twentieth century, thrift advocates proposed the community garden as "a sort of outdoor laboratory" and as a place to teach students "thrift and responsibility, gentleness, and a love for the beautiful and for growing things." Like these early thrift advocates, CBCC and Greensgrow understand that gardening has a broad educational purpose. Both organizations are committed to growing not only food and flowers in their gardens and greenhouses, but to growing the neighborhood of Kensington.

Learn More about CBCC and Greensgrow: An interview with Sister Karen Owens, SSJ, Director of CBCC; Samantha Bute, Director of the CBCC Out-of-School Time Program; and Noelle Dames, Coordinator of the Greensgrow LIFE [Local Initiative for Food Education] program

Tell us a little bit more about your school garden and greenhouse.

KO: It is more of an educational garden than a community garden. The Visitation students use it, but they've also had people from other organizations come and use it so that kids can learn planting and growing and harvesting their own foods. This past spring kids were picking cherry tomatoes off the vine and eating them. Most Kensington children aren't going to have experienced that. The kids also get excited because they do composting and they love to see what it looks like inside a composter. We're really trying to teach them a full capacity of environmental projects through the garden."

Is there a community garden, as well?

KO: We also have a little community garden across the street that people just come and plant in, and it's all neighbors planting. They assumed abandoned land and cultivated it. So we have two gardens with two very different purposes."

CBCC and Greensgrow recently partnered on a youth project called "Restaurant Wars." Tell us more about that.

SB: Greensgrow has a community kitchen. One of the things they wanted to do was partner with a group that was youth based and that they could teach cooking to. So we connected. In our youth afterschool program, we do what's called project based learning. It's a tricky way of helping students further their education without knowing that they're being taught anything. So for "Restaurant Wars" every student has a different role: some are learning marketing, some are learning how to write and critique, some are learning how to cook, just different tasks. There are two competing teams that will be having a cooking competition with the help of Greensgrow chef Chris Koch."

How do you think the students have benefited from the partnership?

SB: Over the classes that they've done they've used stuff from the garden. It's been good because the kids have been exposed to food they wouldn't have been otherwise. One of the soups they loved was cream of cauliflower – no one would have guessed that! They also like butternut squash. It was kind of refreshing to see that they were willing to step outside of their comfort zones and try something different."

Tell us more about the LIFE program at Greensgrow.

ND: The program allows people to stretch their SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits to get fresh, affordable food, and to get free cooking and nutrition classes. The educational component is key, when folks are faced with fresh vs. convenience foods, unsure how to store or prepare it, and whether or not their families will eat it. It was a challenge to reach capacity, and we tried to eliminate as many barriers as possible, reminding participants each week by phone, offering flexible payments, offering child care during classes, and expanding the geographic area throughout the city. By the end of the season, it spread through word of mouth, and we had participants coming on two buses to get here."

You mentioned that you grew up in Kensington when Greensgrow Farm was still a vacant lot and an abandoned building. What was Kensington like then?

ND: I grew up around the corner from Greensgrow, as industry and people were leaving. As with many parts of the city, there wasn't a lot of civic pride. Kensington was, and sometimes still is better known for its negative aspects. But there have always been good folks at the heart of the neighborhood, keeping it together. They've maintained it at a certain level that has allowed many of the positive changes going on now to take off and flourish."

Thursday: Public Libraries are Thrifty

We are here to provide FREE access to knowledge for all; we are a FREE public space open to all; we encourage the FREE exchange of ideas; we are inextricably linked to the city where FREEdom was born.”

—Siobhan A. Reardon, President and Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia

Thrift Tip of the Day: Start a Thrift Club at your local library.

Fast Facts

  • Almost all Philadelphia homes are no more than one mile from a Free Library
  • In one study, 23 percent of survey respondents reported that they either could not have learned to read without the Free Library or that they helped someone else to read and could not have done it without the Free Library

The New Thrift Goes Democratic: Why Public Libraries Are Thrifty

Step inside the Parkway Central branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and you feel as if you're in a palace – stately pillars, arched doorways, high ceilings. Yet, the library is not aristocratic, but democratic. Libraries promote "thrift of knowledge" because they make knowledge accessible to all.

Learn More about the Free Public Library

How do you use the library?

[Jamie, a lifelong Philly resident who always sports a Phillies cap]: It's a good library . . . I come here daily to get my spirit together and keep off the streets. Do all the right stuff, if you know what I mean."

[Natalia, an Americorps volunteer and aspiring international diplomat]: It's really awesome that I can learn French for free via the public library."

[Joe, a homeless man who is trying to get back on his feet]: Whether it's politics or religion, I like to read old books with old ideas. It helps me validate what I believe about things and understand why I do what I do. I've also been checking out some resources to learn to exercise and to take care of my body."

An interview with Sandra Horrocks, Vice President, External Affairs

What services does the Free Library provide?

Each library tries to reflect the community that it's located in. Every library is there to give everybody free access to information, free access to books, DVD's, and CD's, and of course free internet access. In Philadelphia 46 percent of our households have no internet access. It's much higher than the national average which is about 27 percent."

How does each branch reflect the community?

The head of each branch library understands the community and who the population is in that community. The Independence branch, which is just south of Chinatown, does an enormous amount of work with Chinese American individuals. In addition to ESL classes, they offer citizenship classes. In Southwest Philadelphia there is a very high unemployment rate. It's about 16 percent. That particular branch has an area just for job seekers, where they can go in and learn to write a resume, do online job searches, and take courses to prepare for an interview."

Any other services the library provides?

[Each] branch has a meeting room. Community organizations, knitting clubs – anybody can come and use the meeting room in the library. It has really become a community center in addition to a location for free access to information."

We saw that in the past you've done job fairs?

Yes, we've done entry level job fairs, and in the past thousands of people have come. We had the Fels Institute of Government at Penn do a return on investment study for us, and in the course of a year more than a thousand people got jobs only because of the library."

Have you seen the recession affect the number of people that use the library?

Yes, we have had dramatic increases. Our business is booming, but our income is shrinking. In times of recession libraries are used more than ever, but in times of recession library budgets are also cut. So we don't gain anything from our business booming, unlike for-profit organizations that have fee for service. But we're here to serve people with free services – that's what we're here for."

Friday: Cooperating is Thrifty

Congratulations, you are now a part owner of this building. This is yours. You are a part owner of this institution.”

—Dennis Mann, manager of People For People CDCU, on what he tells people after they open an account at People For People

Thrift Tip of the Day: Consider joining or starting a credit union.

Fast Facts

  • Serves a community in which 80 percent of residents are unbanked
  • Almost 1,500 members
  • Opened savings accounts for men from a local men's homeless shelter
  • In the process of opening limited-match savings accounts for every student at People For People Charter School

The New Thrift Forms Cooperatives: Why Cooperating Is Thrifty

Because thrifty people want others to thrive ("thrift" comes from the word "thrive"), they go public and democratic with their resources. Cooperatives like credit unions have a one member, one vote philosophy that encourages broad participation and thrifty behavior.

Learn More about People For People CDCU: An Interview with Dennis Mann, Manager

How did the credit union get started?

The credit union building here was the PNC Bank building. The first bank that [Rev. Dr. Herbert H. Lusk, II, the founder of People For People, Inc.] applied to for a loan was PNC, which turned him down. A year later they ended up giving us their building for one dollar. Now we rent the facility next door here to PNC Bank. This is the only location in the entire United States where a commercial bank and a credit union are side-by-side."

Tell us about the people you serve.

There's a potential market here of about 220,000 people in our credit union territory, of which we have about 1,500 at the moment. Eighty percent of our community is unbanked. And even those that are banked are banked at a very low level – they have very little financial literacy. We have a lot of Rent-A-Centers around here. We have a lot of furniture stores where you can get $4,000 of furniture for $40 down. The money stores in this area – historic."

"There was a lady who came in here crying because she had gotten cash to pay her rent, and she had five dollars in quarters. But her landlord wouldn't take quarters. When she went into a local bank they wouldn't even deal with her. So she went to a money store and they wanted ten percent to change the five dollars in quarters into bills – which wouldn't give her enough to make her rent. We took care of that particular lady very easily by giving her a five dollar bill. She just cried."

We noticed a lot of check cashing stores and payday lenders around here. Tell us more about them.

It's anywhere from 15–25 percent to cash a check at the money stores. It's a captive market. You have a check and you have nobody that will cash it – they won't cash your check at a bank! – so for the payday loans in this area 66 percent interest loan is the norm. They gouge them. People come in here, first question they have is, 'Can welfare take my money?' They are paranoid, they are fearful. It's generations of financial abuse to these people – and a majority of them don't know any different. So where do you go with your check? You go to the check cashing place. How do you get extra money? You get a payday loan."

Who can be a member of the credit union?

We are a territorial credit union with the proviso that if you live, work, meet, or worship in the community you may be a member of the credit union. You may also be a member of the credit union if you are a family member of someone who is a member. It takes basically two things to start your account: a photo ID and five dollars. Walk next door [to PNC Bank] and you need two or three forms of ID, proof of address, and a minimum of $25–35 total in your account. The guard will tell you that you need an appointment to see someone. Intimidating. You walk in here and I say, 'Hi, come on over.' I open almost every account individually."

So can anyone in this territory walk in here and open a checking account?

You come in, you want to open a credit union account, we explain what a credit union is and we open you a savings account. 'Well, I'd like a checking account,' they might say. 'Well, you have to be a member here for a while,' I say. 'You have to show us some stability. You may have to go to a financial class.' The end result is not only do we have a super-low bounce charge here (it's only $20) but we also have a very low bounce rate here because we educate people here. I mean, it's amazing how many people call in and ask if a check cleared. I ask, 'Why?' 'Well, I was going to use the money until the check cleared,' they say. 'No, no,' I say, 'Come on in, we'll have a talk. Let me sit down and explain: the second you write a check, you pretend the money is gone forever.' You can't just give people financial tools without the financial education behind it."

What else does the credit union do?

We have regular financial literacy classes. Also, there's a men's homeless shelter nearby called One Step Away. We've opened savings accounts for the men there."

Are the men at the homeless shelter members of the credit union?

Oh yes. We work with them if they have some ID problems – alternate forms, etc."

What does membership in the credit union involve?

For five dollars – which is the deposit that always remains as your membership – you have voting privileges at our annual meeting. You have the opportunity to work here, to volunteer if you like, because I try to involve people in the process where I can. And as I explain to them, 'Congratulations, you are now a part owner of this building. This is yours. You are a part owner of this institution.'"

How do you encourage saving?

I'll say 'I know you're cashing your check, but leave the change. Let the change build.' The average welfare check of the person who comes in here is $120.89. So they'll deposit it and then take out $120 for their weekly needs. Most of my tellers will say, 'You don't want the 89 cents. Leave that here.'"

About how often do you meet with individuals?

Probably informally and formally about 15 times a week. One lady came in here, for example, who wanted to borrow $15,000 to buy a new car. She had halfway decent credit. I asked her, 'How's your old car?' She said, 'Oh, it's great, runs good.' She has three children and a medium paying job. We sat and talked for a while. I asked her, 'Well, why do you want to buy a new car?' She said, 'Well, I want a new car. I saw the ads.' I talked her out of taking out a loan!"

"Another lady came in, no credit history whatsoever. I said 'Okay, here is what we're going to do: you're going to put $100 in a savings account, and you're going to borrow $100. Pay it back in a week. Then you're going to borrow $200.' We talked about a strategy to build up credit."

Why did you decide to work at People for People?

After 28 years in international marketing, I got to the point where I knew the birthdays of the stewardesses on my international routes better than I knew those of my own family. Mentally, a light bulb came on, and I said 'Stop.' So I retired from that and I wanted to get back into some form of public service. I was inspired by the quote of Dag Hammarskjold who said 'Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on earth.' So I said, 'Okay, I want to give back.'"

Saturday: Green is Thrifty

We will be a thrifty nation when we all learn conservation.”

—The Treasure Twins (children's book), 1923

Thrift Tip of the Day: Sign up your home or business for RecycleBank rewards. Encourage your local public officials to implement an incentivized recycling program.

Fast Facts

  • The Next Great City Initiative coalition includes 130 organizations.
  • In 2005, Philadelphia had a 5.2 percent recycling rate, the second worst rate among large cities in the country.
  • In 2010, Philadelphia became the largest city to participate in RecycleBank, a for-profit incentivized recycling program that rewards residents for recycling. It now has an 18 percent diversion rate.

The New Thrift Goes Green: Why Green is Thrifty

Since thrift is fundamentally the wise use of resources, to live sustainably is to be thrifty!

Learn More About Next Great City: An interview with Christine Knapp, Director of Outreach at Penn Future

Tell us a little bit more about the Next Great City Initiative.

Penn Future started the initiative in 2005, because at the time we knew that there was going to be a Mayor's election in 2007 and that it was an open election. We saw this as a real opportunity to inject issues of environment and sustainability into that race to get the issues talked about. . . . And then secondarily we also wanted to bring together a large coalition. There are a lot of environmental organizations in Philadelphia but there hadn't been a campaign to bring them all together. And partly for that reason there wasn't a lot of clout in this community."

How many organizations are part of the Next Great City Initiative?

Our coalition is now 130 organizations. And that runs the gamut from environmental groups, health groups, churches, labor unions, a few businesses, and a lot of community and civic organizations."

What did you first aim to accomplish?

We emerged with our ten point agenda of what we wanted the next Mayor to do. It covered a pretty wide range of things, from planting trees to reducing air emissions from city trucks. . . . We framed them as common sense and cost effective."

Have any of those objectives been accomplished?

Depending on how you do the accounting, we're actually at about seven out of ten of our objectives being accomplished. We had always planned on releasing a second phase, but then Mayor Nutter then turned around and released Greenworks. It was kind of a reaction to Next Great City, but him saying, 'I'm going to do even better than this. I'm going to be really ambitious.'"

One of your ten objectives was to expand recycling. Tell us more about the incentivized recycling program.

It is run by a for-profit company called RecycleBank, originally started by two MBA students who were from Philadelphia but then went to Columbia University. This was essentially their MBA thesis. The way it works is that everyone who signs up gets one of these stickers to put on your bucket – kind of like Easy Pass – and the scanner or reader is on the truck. You get points based on your community's participation. You get two points for recycling and one point for trash reduction, so it's a true diversion model. If you do something to reduce having trash in the first place you can get rewarded for that. And then you can log on to their website and there's a series of hundreds of rewards partners where you can get discounts and vouchers at local businesses. The way they make their money is that they're saving cities money on both landfill costs and they're increasing the amount of money they can make on the sale of recyclable materials on the commodities market. So in Philadelphia it's the difference of saving I think $65 a ton at the landfill and then they can make $50 a ton by selling the recyclable material."

How many people are signed up for RecycleBank?

We just had a training last night for a group of about ten of us and each of us is going to train ten other people so that we can go around and get people signed up for RecycleBank. Right now there are 110,000 households signed up out of 550,000 so we're hoping to help them boost that."

How can people in the community get involved in the work that you're doing?

For the next phase, it's going to be about a couple things – spreading the word and bringing in new partners. We'd love to have people sign their church up, sign their civic association up, their bowling club – just any group of people. And share the information. That's a hard thing. For more information people can visit, and sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter. You can also sign your organization up to be a part of the coalition by contacting me at"

Sunday: Thrift Shops are Thrifty

That's a really big focus: trying to live simply.”

—Bess Hunter Gerig, Manager

Thrift Tip of the Day: Instead of throwing away stuff you don't want, donate it.

Fast Facts

  • Raised $100,000 in 2010 to give away
  • Part of the proceeds go to local projects like a playground, a kid's club, a cultural center for youth, an urban farm, a community garden, and a settlement house for the elderly
  • Provides transitional employment and job skills to individuals looking for work after an injury or period of unemployment

How the New Thrift Shops: Why Thrift Shops Are Thrifty

Thrift shops are a thrift exemplar:

  • Green (reuse old items instead of buying new)
  • Financially savvy (where else can you get outfits for less than five bucks?)
  • Community minded (thrift shops encourage volunteerism and fund non-profit work)

Learn More about CiRCLE THRiFT: An Interview with Bess Hunter Gerig, Manager at the Fishtown location

How did CiRCLE THRiFT get started?

Martha Grace [the current director] started it – didn't really know much about business or anything, but just wanted to give it a try. So we teamed up with the Mennonite Central Committee. They have thrift stores all around the US and Canada."

We saw that you met your goal of giving away $100,000 in 2010. How did you do it?

Really the only way that's possible is through community involvement which has been phenomenal over the last few years."

Who shops at CiRCLE THRiFT?

It's incredibly varied, much like the neighborhood. Lots of young people who have migrated here. Lots of people who have been here for generations. We also do vouchers for different churches and non-profits that send people to us that are in need. We do fire vouchers so that people who have lost their homes to fires can come get blankets or clothes or whatever they need really."

Tell us about one of the organizations you support.

[The Lutheran Settlement House for senior citizens] is near and dear to my heart because a majority of them are our customers. It's this wonderful circular motion. They do so much for us and then thankfully we're able to do a little bit for them as well."

Is the CiRCLE THRiFT staff volunteer-based?

One of the things that we really wanted to do is be able to provide flexible jobs for decent pay. So we actually have nine paid staff at the Fishtown location and more paid staff at the location in South Philly."

Tell us about one of your employees.

One of the backbones to our store came to us through court-ordered community service five years ago. She makes us what we are for the most part. I mean this woman is phenomenal. She does more in one hour than ten people can do."

What is Circle Thrift's relationship to Circle of Hope?

Circle Thrift is essentially a compassion ministry of Circle of Hope. Circle of Hope has all these various compassion ministries, including Circle Thrift, an urban farm team, and a debt annihilation team. That's a really big focus in Circle of Hope: trying to live simply."

What's your favorite thing about working at CiRCLE THRiFT?

[Bess Hunter Gerig]: All the employees are really close, and once you get to know the customers it becomes really a tight knit community."

[An employee busy joking with a customer]: I love all of our regular customers. Just getting to interact with our neighbors. And I really believe in the cause – what our profits go for. I just feel like I'm a part of something."

[An employee busy pricing a donated wedding dress]: The people that work here are really amazing. We're all just really close and support each other. And, of course, I like the clothes."


Why Thrift? Why Here? Why Now?

Mayor Nutter Proclaims Thrift Week in Philadelphia. [Full speech also available]

David Blankenhorn Explains National Thrift Week

NBC10 Philadelphia highlights National Thrift Week 2011 by presenting a Thrifty Tip of the Day. [More Thrift Tips: Energy Cooperative, Gardening]

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead discusses cautious consumer spending on PBS "Nightly News", January 24, 2011

David Blankenhorn and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead Discuss Thrift with Newsweek's Daniel Gross

Melvin McFatter, Mississippi Public Broadcasting "A Scout Is Thrifty"

2011 Philadelphia Thrift Leaders Roundtable

Event Slideshow

Philadelphia Mayor: Thrift Can Spur Economic Recovery, Institute for American Values Press Release, 1/21/11

2011 Philadelphia Thrift Leaders Roundtable Participating Organizations


Pennsylvania General Assembly Designates January 17-23 National Thrift Week Read more

Philadelphia Mayor Proclaims Thrift Week Read more

“Thrift Is the Social Movement for the Great Recovery” Gerard Cuddy, Propositions Jan. 2011 Read more

Thrift, Rickety

Bring Back Thrift Week, Bucksome Boomer

In Praise of Thrift: An Old Idea for a New Economy, Get Rich Slowly

The Week of Living Thriftily, The Templeton Report

Bring Back Thrift Week!, Impact Thrift

National Thrift Week, The Community

National Thrift Week Returns After 44 Year Gap, Philadelphia, January 17-23, Serge the Concierge

Tackle the to Do List, Running Leaner and Greener

National Thrift Week, Wealth Informatic$

Nation Celebrates National Thrift Week,, The Debt Specialists


Institute for American Values, 420 Lexington Avenue, Room 300, New York, NY 10170-0399