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A Barrio Story: Jose Garcia

By Barrio Alegria

A Barrio Story: Jose Garcia

Sweating it out!

It was a hot Saturday in July 2019, the sun was at its peak and the air overwhelmed with humidity.

Jose, a determined young man, tired of issues plaguing his community decided he needed to act, to do something. He was hopeful but cautious because he was just one person.

In the middle of the summer heat, he decided to organize a cleanup. If he was lucky, he could get people to join him. If not, he would just drag one of his friends to help clean.

With a date in mind and a plan in place, Jose purchased supplies with his own money. He encouraged his friends, neighbors, and anybody who will listen, to come to join his cleanup! But as the day approached, his anxiety grew not knowing what to expect about the whole thing.

It may have been hot for some people, but he knew the summers in Reading. He had experienced them all his life.

August 10th, the day of the cleanup arrived. And besides his friend John, only one person showed up. For Jose, it was a success, because these people also knew the summer heat in Pennsylvania, and it was not going to stop them.

The South of Penn Connection

The sun was scorching, and Jose had set up 30 minutes before to make sure everything would be in place. By his side was one of his closest friends, John, who wanted to make sure Jose’s cleanup went flawlessly.

At one minute to 10 a.m., they became restless. Nobody was showing up.

All of a sudden, like out of a dream, a woman appeared down the street walking towards the meet up area.

“Could it be?” Jose’s first volunteer had shown up. Success! After chatting and waiting a few more minutes they started the event.

The volunteer, a woman named Goldy, told Jose about a group called “South of Penn” and the work they were doing not far from where he held his cleanup.

“They are holding a block party to celebrate with neighbors for all the work they have done so far.” she said, sparking Jose’s curiosity. “Do you want to come check it out?”

Jose not only showed up to the party, but after hearing more about the community building efforts, he signed his name on the volunteer sheet. Soon, there were no South of Penn cleanups without him.

One day the coordinator asked him if he wanted to be part of a photo shoot to advertise an upcoming Superhero clean off against Pottstown.

That was the day Jose met what would become his “Barrio family”. Before he left, he learned that they were looking to fill a position. A few days later he received a call to talk about it. Before he knew it, he was offered the job.

Time bank Coordinator

The position was to be the Barrio Time bank Coordinator. The following is what Jose likes to call his elevator speech (and what his Barrio family jokingly says he tells all girls on the first date):

“The time bank is a non-monetary system where members exchange skills and services with one another without exchanging actual money. It’s a system that rewards that recognizes volunteerism in the community. For every one hour spent helping out, you accumulate one time credit. With this time credit you can exchange it for a skill or service another member of the time bank is offering.” This writer calls it serendipity to have found Jose. But Jose calls it divine intervention.

“And to think that it all started with a cleanup,” Jose said. “How could you ignore divine intervention?”

That is why Jose jumped at the chance to work with Barrio. “It was a great opportunity to spread awareness about the time bank, but most importantly, help improve the life of many in our community.”

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jose was able to hit the yearly goal of reaching 200 time bank members. To do this, he leveraged his and Barrio’s already established relationships. And he is happy to see community members exchange skills and services such as sewing, language exchanges, rides, companionship and much more!

Many people would have given up after the first cleanup, with only two volunteers showing up. Blame it on the summer hot spell. In fact, many have.

But not Jose. He is used to sweating it out.