Honoring Leadership and Embracing Community at RHD’s Wister Street

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RHD’s Wister Street’s annual Friends and Family event is always a joyous occasion. On Friday, August 25th, this year’s gathering took place outside of the program’s headquarters, which is in the historic Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Everyone there enjoyed delicious BBQ, great music, dancing, and a bounce house and face painting for children. This already special day became even more memorable when the entire crowd congregated to surprise program director Nicole Brown with a celebration acknowledging her 25 years at RHD. The festive occasion overflowed with heartfelt speeches and meaningful gifts, evoking a profound sense of community that resonated with everyone present.

Since 2000, Wister Street has provided a therapeutic residential space for individuals with persistent mental illness and forensic involvement history. Through this transitional program, participants develop vital social, emotional, and life skills, fostering independence for a permanent living situation. The Friends and Family event – now in its seventh year – gives Wister Street and those closest to them a chance to have fun and reflect on the past year.

Despite the initial overcast skies, the rain held off, allowing for intermittent glimpses of radiant blue skies and warm sunshine. Many of Wister Street’s dedicated staff members and participants donned special t-shirts designed for the occasion – vibrant purple tie-dye complete with the program’s logo on the front and a few of RHD’s Values on the back, including: Creativity, Honesty and Trust, and Empowerment of Groups.

As the event unfolded, the atmosphere buzzed with affectionate reminiscing, reconnecting with one another, and simply unwinding. Some in attendance even began line dancing! And then, a collective hush settled as everyone gathered on the patio for a special announcement. Sandy Cox-Scales, RHD’s Executive Vice President of Behavioral Health & Housing, was on hand to help honor Nicole. “She’s directed so many different kinds of programs, featuring a wide scope of services. That just shows how flexible she is. I can’t say enough about Ms. Brown.” Sandra shared. Addressing Nicole directly, she said “You care about people. You get it. You get this work.”

The staff presented Nicole with a plaque and other mementos commemorating her 25th anniversary. RHD’s leadership and the Wister Street team offered poignant words, celebrating Nicole’s embodiment of RHD’s Values in action – a testament to the inspiration she brings to all. Even the DJ chimed in, expressing gratitude to Nicole for her unwavering support and guidance. But the surprises didn’t stop there. Wister Street participants had their own accolade to present to Nicole, accompanied by heartfelt words that painted a vivid picture of her profound impact. One participant shared, “Nicole does a great job. She has gotten me through my worst and best. She pushes me for the good.”

Nicole then took the microphone, her voice carrying a mixture of pride and humility. “I live and breathe Wister. It allows me to live my purpose and passion.” Turning to the participants she said, “It inspires me to see how resilient the women and men here are. You rise through all the adversity.” Addressing her staff and RHD leadership, she beamed, “I have the best team in the world.”

Truly, it was a day filled with gratitude, warmth, and wonder. To learn more about Wister Street and how you can support their crucial mission, visit their webpage at https://www.rhd.org/program/wister-street/.