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Building on their reputation as a national role model for homeless family housing and services, West Philadelphia's People's Emergency Center was recognized by President Bush this week as his 436th "Daily Point of Light." The President honors as a "Point Of Light" individuals, businesses, unions, clubs or organizations which volunteer to tackle social problems such as AIDS, drug abuse, illiteracy or homelessness in their own community. Gloria Guard, executive director of PEC located at 33rd and Chestnut streets, called the honor "fitting recognition" of the role PEC volunteers play in community outreach. "As one of many non-profit agencies working against tremendous odds to meet ever mounting needs, this award gives PEC the opportunity to focus public attention on the effective actions of thousands of individuals who wish to see an end to economic inequity and the national shame of homelessness in our country," Guard said. Susan Daily, PEC's development director, said that the recognition is a fitting honor, because "it gives us a chance to publicly acknowledge the fact that individuals can make contributions towards doing something effective to end homelessness." PEC was started as a volunteer organization in 1972 by two ministers from the University and Drexel University. Originally a weekends-only operation, PEC now operates around the clock, every day of the year -- and relies on the efforts of over 150 volunteers yearly. The Bush administration created the Office of National Service in 1989, which handles the Points of Light program. They currently receive over 200 nominations each week to be the Daily Point of Light. Some of the criteria that the office looks at when narrowing the field from nominations to honorees include a willingness to form a relationship with people they help while trying to solve the problem. According to David Goldfarb, a research assistant at the Office of National Service, PEC fits those requirements very well. "PEC makes sure that when [the homeless] reenter society, they're ready for it," said David Goldfarb. Volunteers participate at the PEC as board members, doctors, nurses and tutors. In addition to individuals, several religious groups support PEC through the Adopt-A-Room Program, through which the groups "adopt" a family room and provide furnishings, toiletries, linens and needed supplies for families living in transitional housing. Only four other groups and individuals have been recognized in Philadelphia for the Points of Light award. These include resident Dorothy Harrell for organizing tenant marches and protests to crack down on neighborhood drug dealers and the Drexel Town Watch program which patrols Powelton Village every night.

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