Profile in community service: Rev. Dr. Timothy Jones
By Constance Garcia-Barrio
Service has proved a lifelong mantra for the Rev. Dr. Timothy Jones, 75. A former U.S. Army sergeant, computer programmer and teacher, he also worked 29 years for Delta Airlines in positions that sometimes brought him face to face with irate travelers. After his 2002 retirement, he looked forward to taking it easy. “I anticipated slowing down,” says Jones, who has four grown children.
He seems to have fast-tracked his life instead.
Jones leads Sunday morning services at the Ebenezer Full Gospel Church, housed in the Hayes Manor Retirement Residence, 2210 Belmont Avenue, in Wynnefield. While he helps meet that community’s spiritual needs on Sunday, he stays busy during the week near his home in East Mt. Airy. He rolled up his sleeves years ago and became captain of three blocks — 7800 Stenton Avenue, 900 E. Hortter and 900 E. Phil-Ellena, which form three sides of a square — under the sponsorship of the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee (PMBC), a division of the Department of Streets. “In 2016, the 900 block of E. Phil-Ellena won second place in PMBC’s annual contest as Philadelphia’s most beautiful block,” Jones says.
Block Captains, who rally their neighbors to sweep the block, remove litter, rake leaves, plant community gardens on vacant lots and more, “… don’t get a dime for what they do …” says Dawn Woods, administrator of PMBC. Woods noted that it’s rare to have volunteers who serve on more than one block.
Jones’ dedication to his community may have taken root in his childhood. His birthplace, Plains, Georgia, home of former President Jimmy Carter, offered an example of the power of close-knit neighbors. “We lived right across the street from the Carters until I was 4 years old,” Jones says. “My oldest sister and Lillian Carter used to play together. Sometimes Miss Lillian attended the Black church.”
Jones takes pride in his present neighborhood’s unity. “I see the fruits of my labor [as Block Captain] when we come together and cooperate on projects,” he says. “We worked together to have a faded street sign replaced. On another occasion, a tree fell in a storm and blocked the driveway behind our homes where many of us park. When I asked five men to help remove it, all of them said yes. One of them even had the necessary saw to cut tree limbs.”
Serving as Block Captain isn’t always warm and fuzzy work, Jones notes. “Some things, say, music that’s too loud or illegally parked vehicles, oppose the quality of life,” he says.
Sometimes dumpsters pose a problem. “They can remain only for a certain period of time. Otherwise, people throw garbage in them, and they begin to smell. I always talk with the people involved so they have a chance to remedy the situation.” He only calls the Department of Licenses and Inspection as a last resort.
Jones also helps ensure the area’s well-being as a committee member in the 6th Division of the city’s 50th Ward. At election time he knocks on doors and distributes flyers to help get out the vote. In addition, he keeps up with possible problems in the community through Police Service Alerts (PSAs). Anyone can join the PSA list, he pointed out, but for him it’s another way to stay informed.
It looks like the days of leisure will have to wait. “I didn’t retire to be this busy,” Jones says, “but I’m glad to help serve the needs of my neighbors, to help ensure a good quality of life for us all.
Block Captains help make Philadelphia cleaner, kinder
Philadelphia’s Block Captains volunteer their time and talent to help keep their streets attractive. In addition to beautification and cleanliness, many Block Captains help connect their neighbors to food, community resources and information, as well as work to ensure a security within the neighborhood. Block Captains serve under the sponsorship of the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee (PMBC), a division of Philadelphia’s Streets Department. To learn more about block captains or to become one, visit PhiladelphiaStreets.com/pmbc or call 215-685-3981
Native Philadelphian Constance Garcia-Barrio writes about many topics, including Black history.