APM Celebrates 50 Years and Counting

Press Releases

Landmark anniversary to unfold throughout the year with new initiatives, community events and a star-studded speaker series

PHILADELPHIA—(February 13, 2020)—In 1970, a group of Puerto Rican veterans of the Vietnam War returned home to Philadelphia and saw that many basic social services were unavailable to the city’s Hispanic residents. They founded the Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (Association of Puerto Ricans on the Move or APM) with the goal of bringing these services and other opportunities to the community. Still going strong in 2020, APM is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a yearlong slate of special events and programs.

Today’s APM serves more than 40,000 people a year and runs programs in housing assistance, employment training, physical and mental health, early childhood education, family counseling and other community services.

“This is a remarkable milestone for the residents of the neighborhoods we serve,” said Nilda Ruiz, APM’s president and chief executive officer. “APM has now brought life-programs to thousands of people. We’re everywhere our families are, and we never stop innovating and growing. That’s what keeps us

Throughout 2020, APM will bring people together around the lesson that it has lived by: everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, is equally deserving of respect and opportunity.

Over the course of the year, the anniversary will unite Philadelphians through social impact initiatives and community events that reflect APM’s unifying messages.

One highlight will be APM’s 2020 Speaker Series, featuring thought leaders, experts and activists in public panel discussions on key current issues. The panels will be held at WHYY (150 N 6th Street) from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tickets are available at APM’s website at https://apmphila.org/newsroom-events/apms-50th-anniversary-1970-2020/.

The series will include the following panels:

  • Behavioral Health: Actress and author Mackenzie Phillips will speak at a Feb. 13 about behavioral health issues facing communities, including access to mental health care, substance abuse and rising suicide rates. After her address, a discussion will bring together professionals in health care and public policy with community stakeholders.
  • Education: Sonia Manzano, who brought a Latina voice to “Sesame Street” as “Maria” from 1971 to 2015, will speak about early childhood education on March 19. Panelists will then identify the best tools and resources as APM invests in children and their families.
  • Community and Economic Development: John Quinones, an ABC News correspondent and host of “What Would You Do?”, will highlight community and economic development on April 22. Non-profit organizations throughout Philadelphia have worked for decades to create homeownership, affordable rentals and economic opportunities for low-income residents. This panel will examine the effectiveness of these efforts.
  • Child Protective Services: Child safety activist Elizabeth Smart will speak about child protective care services on May 21. Those in the foster care community work to improve the safety, permanency and well-being of children and families. Nonetheless, children in foster care often experience long-lasting trauma. This panel will look at possibilities and solutions.

Another key event in APM’s 50th anniversary year will be the annual Sugar Cane Festival on June 13. The festival is a family day of music, dance, food and culture, and is considered the unofficial “start of summer” for Latino Philly. Attendees can listen to live musical performances and dance to salsa, merengue, cumbia, afrobeat, reggaeton, soca and more. APM staff at the event will provide community residents information about the organization’s services.

The celebration of APM’s achievements culminates with the 50th Anniversary Gala on September 19.

APM began with a staff of five in a Germantown Avenue storefront. Today, nearly 400 multilingual professionals offer a range of services at 13 sites throughout North Philadelphia, transforming neighborhoods in the area.

In housing, APM has developed more than 160 ownership units and 200 safe, affordable rental units. APM counselors have helped families obtain financial assistance for housing and aided homeowners in repairing credit and avoiding foreclosures. Through private and government partnerships, APM stabilized 20 acres of housing that resulted in an investment of $70 million into the neighborhood east of Temple University. Thanks to its housing program, 114 formerly homeless families (256 people) have received permanent supportive housing.

Through its Early Childhood Education initiatives, APM has placed 610 three- and four-year-old children in high-quality preschools and many in before- and after-care centers. Last year, APM’s early childhood education students showed remarkable progress. At the beginning of the year, 64 percent were below expectations in literacy, with 61 percent below expectations in math. By the end, 85 percent met or exceeded expectations in literacy and 75 percent in math.

At two clinics, APM health professionals provide bilingual diagnoses and treatment to address the community’s mental health and well-being through individual and family counseling sessions. Multiple clinic locations offer substance abuse treatment, including individual assessments, behavioral therapy and medically assisted recovery.

APM employment counselors help job seekers with resume preparation and interviewing skills. Group workshops have focused on computer, financial literacy and English as a Second Language. “We are often asked what APM’s legacy will be,” said Ruiz, who was born in Philadelphia after her parents moved to the city from Puerto Rico. “To me, a legacy is when something is over, and this isn’t over.”

“APM has a profound impact on the lives of North Philadelphia residents, setting a template that other organizations have followed now for a generation,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Fifty years later, APM continues to deliver on its mission every day, in multiple neighborhoods throughout the city.”

Sponsors of APM’s 2020 anniversary celebration events include villaNOVA Insurance Partners, Goya Foods, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, Fox Rothschild LLP and Temple University.

To learn more, visit apmphila.org and follow along with the hashtag #APMTurns50 and @APMForEveryone on Twitter and Instagram.

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