The Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association works towards leaving a positive impact on residents in Philadelphia


Courtesy of Tanisha Carter

Children attend the OCCCDA summer camp in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, a non-profit organization called Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association (OCCCDA) is working towards improving Oxford Circle to meet the necessities of residents who are struggling. As an organization based around Christian values, they have one overarching mission in mind which is “to extend healing and hope in the Oxford Circle community, believing that God’s purpose of reconciling all people to Jesus leads us to minister on spiritual, physical, social, and economic levels” (
Oxford Circle is a low-income neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia that was hit hard by the pandemic. OCCCDA has been able to adapt quickly to meet their neighbors’ changing needs. For example, prior to the pandemic, they had opened a thrift store for those in the community in need of everyday items such as clothes. However, as the pandemic unfolded, they saw their neighbors were now in need of food more than clothes. To help resolve this issue, they started to distribute food every Thursday with volunteers that pack around 100-120 boxes. Also, to fund this program, they received grants to purchase groceries from small local grocery stores to help keep small businesses open during the pandemic.
Katie Gard, the Property Manager and Donor relations of OCCCDA said, “We care about supporting small businesses…not replacing them, and helping keep their business alive [by buying] from them and [giving] to people who are just really affected by the pandemic.”
There are various programs that OCCCDA implemented to assist people’s lives within the community. As an example, they offer a workforce development program that helps with resume building and finding job opportunities that are well-fit for the members of the community.
Another aspect OCCCDA aims to foster is the expression and acceptance of the diversity that is in the community. To help people experience more cultural backgrounds, they held an event called the World Food Fair before the pandemic hit.
“We gave people the opportunity to cook food from their home countries and then have a festival where we set up tables from every country and we have their flag in front of the table,” Gard said.
Due to the diversity of the community, OCCCDA also assists many young students with furthering their education. The organization incorporated the Community Literacy Activities (CLA) program for families and young children every last Saturday of the month. They provide many literacy activities and opportunities to express creativity such as arts and crafts that are made accessible to the top four most spoken languages in the community: Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.
“Part of our philosophy is to read to your kids in your home language or whatever language you feel most comfortable with because that’ll help kids confidently develop literacy skills but then they will be able to pick up on English as well by the time they get to school,” said Gard.
In addition to the CLA program, they run after school programs throughout the year in partnership with a local public elementary school, Carnell, and are funded from a grant by 21st Century Community Learning Centers. This STEAM based program hires teachers to take time to help young students that are not understanding the material learned in school and for them to dive into new extracurriculars such as music classes.
Despite the many opportunities that are open from the efforts put forth by OCCCDA, there are challenges they face as well. This includes the unpredictability of relying mostly on grants to provide funding for their projects in the future. Thus, they are working towards finding ways to have more of a reliable, steady flow of funds to supplement the money from grants.
“When you give money, it’s like your gift is multiplied by 10,” said Gard, “90% of our work is grant funded so when an individual donates money to our organization, what you’re paying for is [our staff] who are writing the grants.”
Also, these grants help fund for 90% of the staff that are helping with the various programs and the community overall.
Other ways that help OCCCDA include volunteering within the programs and literacy events, planning special group projects that utilize skills specific to the volunteers and the power of prayer.
“We really believe in the power of prayer and we take time ourselves to pray for our organization and listen to where God is leading our hearts and leading us as an organization,” said Gard.
Already, OCCCDA’s service through the community has left a strong impact on the residents of Oxford Circle and beyond. Yet, there is more planned for the future of this non-profit to further assist and change the lives of the people each and every day.
To know more about OCCCDA or how to get involved, email Ms. Gard at: or check out @occcda on Instagram.

Children smile for a photo at OCCCDA’s 2022 Summer Camp.
(Courtesy of Daniel Schafhauser)