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Ground Broken for Health Center Expansion

July 14, 2014 — groundbreaking shovelingJune 6 was a very happy day for many as golden shovels literally broke ground at the site of the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University. A number of generous gifts including an astounding $2.5 million donation from the Sheller Family Foundation have allowed the University to break ground on a much-anticipated expansion project. The new two-story addition will not only allow the health center to serve a greater number of North Philadelphia residents in the surrounding community, but will also create space for new types of health services and programs, as well as additional teaching opportunities for Drexel students.

The building, which will virtually double in size from 17,000 ft2 to approximately 34,000 ft2, will be renamed the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services Center in honor of the project’s benefactors. Sandra Lee Sheller, director, president, and co-founder of the Sheller Family Foundation, is an alumna of the College of Nursing and Health Professions’ Art Therapy Program (2004) and Couple and Family Therapy Program (2005). Her husband, Stephen Sheller, Esq., is a Drexel University trustee, prominent Philadelphia attorney, and co-founder of the Sheller Family Foundation. Together they have recognized the incredible impact that 11th Street and its leadership have made on the community. They regularly tout the health center as a “bellwether” and have been instrumental in spreading messages about the health center’s revolutionary model of care.

A celebratory groundbreaking event held outdoors on June 6 underscored the need for expansion. “When a neighborhood doesn’t have a good health care option, illness can be a barrier to every other type of progress that residents seek to make,” said Drexel University President John Fry. “The nurses who founded [11th Street] had innovative ideas for a holistic approach that not only treated illness, but sowed the seeds of good health.” The health center’s mission and programming align with the University’s priorities under President Fry’s administration, such as to expand civic engagement to improve Philadelphia, contribute to Drexel’s innovation, and to foster academic excellence and intensify and improve the student experience.

Dr. Patricia Gerrity, who serves a dual role as Associate Dean for Community Programs at the Drexel College of Nursing and Health Professions and as the Director of the health center, entered the community where 11th Street is now located in order to learn from the residents. She had the support of Drexel University when the current building was constructed and the building at the corner of 11th and Parrish Streets provided a formal structure to house the services Dr. Gerrity and her team of talented colleagues had previously been providing to residents in a smaller space not meant for healthcare. “This center is a testament to what can happen when a community and a university work together,” she said at the groundbreaking. The larger space afforded by the expansion  will allow the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services Center to continue its growth and address the evolving needs of the community it serves.

Among the other speakers at the event were Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke, Dr. Gloria Donnelly, Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel trustee Richard Greenawalt, staff, faculty, patients, and community members.

The Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services Center is a nurse-managed health care home that targets a medically underserved population at the intersection of four public housing developments. It provides affordable, accessible care to these residents that includes integrated primary and behavioral health care and an impressive range of health promotion programs and services. Drexel students learn on-site at 11th Street through clinical training and co-op opportunities.

Construction on the expansion by Gilbane Building Company is expected to be complete in fall 2015.

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