ST. PHILIP'S COMMUNITY CENTER
By Maria D'Antoni
Did you miss the bus? If you weren’t able to make the 75th Anniversary bus tour last February to view some of Saint Michael’s outreach projects, you missed the opportunity to visit St. Philip’s School and Community Center. You missed an opportunity to smile at what the Lord, in collaboration with Saint Michael and other churches and community agencies, has accomplished to transform a south Dallas community. I was able to revisit St. Philip’s recently in preparation for this article.
David Cowling, a Saint Michael parishioner and current chairman of the Saint Philip’s board of trustees was one of our enthusiastic guides. "Even after many visits to St. Philip's campus, every time I leave, I'm a better person," shared David with a gracious smile as we finished our visit. David, has been actively involved as a volunteer at Saint Philip’s for close to 20 years. He emits a passion that is contagious and one that stayed with me for days following my visit.
Volunteer involvement in an outreach project has an unexpected way of bringing a volunteer joy while giving of themselves to others. David, numerous Saint Michael volunteers, and other volunteers who have tirelessly given hours of their time to Saint Philip’s are witness to that experience. Through their gift of time, talent, and treasure, Saint Philip’s has prospered!
Saint Philip’s has been a recurring recipient of Women of Saint Michael's outreach grants. Saint Michael volunteers, including the Men of Saint Michael, can be found working at Aunt Bette’s Community Pantry, a client-choice food pantry serving the south Dallas community. With some temporary changes in the interaction and delivery method, Aunt Bette’s Community Pantry remained open throughout Covid.
Like Saint Michael, Saint Philip’s has recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. In the late 1940’s just after World War II, it was planted as an African American Episcopal Church for the south Dallas community, by a small group of black Episcopalians who partnered with a few individuals and churches in the Diocese of Dallas. Once the doors opened, the needs of the youth and families of south Dallas became apparent. Saint Philip’s set out on a long path to address these needs, first by building a gymnasium in 1957 to accommodate community center programming. In 1966, as the result of the tragic death of a child killed by a car on a street in the neighborhood, St. Philip’s reached out to Saint Michael and the Church of the Incarnation to build a larger gym to give the youth a place off "the streets” and provide a safe place for them to play. This was followed by a daycare center established in 1967, which has grown into a school and community center that focuses on excellence in education and service.
Much credit in reaching its current high standards is the result of the leadership of Dr. Terry Flowers. He joined St. Philip’s as school principal in 1983 and now serves as Headmaster and Executive Director. Under Dr. Flower’s leadership, St. Philip's has grown from an Episcopal Pre-K3 through 1st grade school, serving approximately 90 children, to a highly competitive, independent Pre-K2 through 6th grade institution with an enrollment of 238 students. Over the next two years the school will be expanding, launching 7th and 8th grade classes. In addition to its day school students, over 700 community youth participate in after-school athletic programs. Each weekend over 70 teams play in the gym. Currently, St. Philip’s is the only community center south of I-30 that has three full size gyms.
The gyms are utilized not only for sports but also for community-wide events such as hosting community Christmas and Mother’s Day Stores, Thanksgiving Day dinners, and ongoing meal programs to feed children. Last November, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, a Thanksgiving dinner was served to over 700 people. (Isn’t there something Biblical about the number 7?)
In addition to the growth and development of the physical plant of St. Philip's, a significant community demographic change has occurred. Through joint community efforts there has been a significant reduction of bars, crack houses, and liquor stores in the areas. Providing a safer neighborhood for the children to live and play.
The school has developed a rich reputation for educating children to be confident, morally strong, intelligent, and caring leaders. St. Philip’s commitment to following Christ is reflected in Dr. Flowers statement, “St. Philip's is a place where it is okay to pray and make an A!”
We were treated to the recitation of the Saint Philip’s Creed by a group of preschoolers—a significant feat for them and their teachers!
Yes, I did say that the preschoolers recited this creed from memory!
One of the highlights of the past school year was the April 8 visit to the school by the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Not only did he tour the campus but he had lively interactions with the students in the St. Philip’s Chapel.
St. Philip’s Chapel is a delightful place full of bright colors and stain glass windows that welcome a sense of fresh air and the presence of the Holy Spirit. By the time Bishop Curry left, the children knew that Jesus loved them! In the St. Philip’s preschool, there is significant emphasis placed on building self-esteem. Bishop Curry’s visit was a great support to this effort.
When touring the campus of St. Philip's, one becomes acutely aware that what has happened here has been accomplished by a cross-cultural and multidimensional effort. The playground was donated by the Dallas Stars. Baylor, Scott, and White has a full pediatric clinic on campus 5 days a week. Meals on Wheels™ has a south Dallas hub present. Albertsons donated a refrigerated truck for the food pantry. The Junior League of Dallas has had a long-term presence.
St. Philip's would not be where it is today without the loving monetary and volunteer support it receives from Saint Michael. While much progress has been achieved, the needs are still many, and SMAA is blessed with a bounty of resources. There are many ways to get involved and volunteer for service at St. Philip’s.
Currently Saint Michael is holding our 3rd coat drive for the St. Philip’s Community. This is a “new coat” drive. Winters in north Texas can be cold. There is nothing like a new winter coat to warm your body and your spirit. To learn more about how you can participate here.
It’s not too late to jump on the bus. It could be one of the most rewarding rides of your life!
St. Philip’s Creed
Look at me. I am more than what you see.
Destiny is mine! If it is to be, it's up to me.
Society will condemn, but only I determine my path.
My people have suffered and died for my chance to read and do math.
Just as sacrifices were made to make my future bright,
It is my responsibility to do things that are right.
I must start today to pave the way.
The community and the world need my contributions.
In success, I will not stray.
The bias, the rumors, nor the stereotypes will hinder my growth;
I claim dignity and prosperity. My God promises both.
Look at me! I am sharp, empowered, talented and proud without limit.
I will use my education to explore new heights.
The sky is the limit, if I just put my mind in it.
When I say, "stick it out," I don't mean a hand.
I will persevere to play my role in God's omniscient plan.
I will live by "put ups, not put downs" for my sister and my brother.
I care for you; I respect you.
If I don't, why should another?
Success is my right - failure my option. I have the voice.
The consequences I will accept, for I made the choice.
Look at me! Great things lie ahead.
Judge me not by what you've been told,
But by what's in my head.
Volunteer Opportunities at St. Philip’s
Please take time to pray and reflect on where your volunteer skills might best fit at St. Philip’s.
St. Philip’s School
Drop Everything and Read takes place every weekday from 7:50 – 8:05 a.m. in our Early Childhood classrooms, grades Pre-K2 through Kindergarten. Volunteers are needed to read to an entire class of 2–5-year-olds once a week or once a month.
This initiative highlights an increased focus on helping young entrepreneurs ages 5–15 start and succeed in creating small businesses. The mission of the Expo is to help students use entrepreneurship to embrace their passion, funnel their creative energy, and gain profitability around their talents and gifts with a goal to achieve independent success. Volunteer roles include: seminar support as timekeepers, registration, exhibitor support, and Kid Tank judges.
On-going assistance is needed with shelving, covering and cataloging books, and various other library materials.
Aunt Bette’s Community Pantry
Volunteers are needed for client service and pantry stocking.
For more information on how to get involved, contact one of the staff members below.
The Rev. Robin Hinkle Assoc. for Mission & Outreach [email protected]
Christi Morrow Mission & Outreach Coordinator [email protected]
Elizabeth Keogh Mission & Outreach Committee Liaison to St. Philip’s [email protected]
**This article was written by Maria D'Antoni and was featured in the 2022 Fall Archangel.