Puentes de Salud (Bridges of Health) promotes the health and wellness of South Philadelphia’s growing Latino immigrant community—operating a health clinic, adult education classes, and arts programs with the slimmest of budgets, scattered space, a single full-time employee, and a network of 300 volunteers.
Dr. Steven Larson, executive director of Puentes de Salud, founded the nonprofit almost a decade ago with Dr. Jack Ludmir and Dr. Matthew O’Brien. He’s candid about why holistic programs like this are so essential, “I’m an ER doctor… you get trained to salvage lives and deal with some pretty horrific things, but when you see a 15-year old kid shot in the chest… you say to yourself, ‘The fight’s not in my ER, the fight’s out in the community.’"
Puentes will soon be able to bring all of its programs under one roof—thanks to office space donated by University of Pennsylvania Health System. Before moving forward, the nonprofit asked the Community Design Collaborative to assess its space needs, consider potential costs, and develop a conceptual design for adapting the space.
Steve describes the new facility as a keystone for Puentes, “that piece that locks it all into place.” He says, “We’re going to finally be able to expand our clinical care to five days a week… All of a sudden, we can realize that aspect of our mission. Along the way, you start bringing in all the other educational pieces. You use health care as the hook that brings people to you, and then you get them into the ESL (English as a Second Language) class, or the nutrition class, or the prenatal class, or the GED class.”
He's looking forward to making the currently drab, empty space into a vibrant center for Puentes, “The full-on sense for what the capacity for this space was, actually, just escaped me. [The volunteer team] immediately saw the potential with the space up there [pointing to the drop ceiling] and the facade along South Street… You’ll have this really large open space with lots of light. It’ll be patient-friendly, community friendly. We’ll have wall space for art shows and exhibits… It’s just going to be wonderful.”
A special thanks to our volunteer team!
Johnston Stromberg Architecture Brian Johnston, AIA LEED AP Christopher Stromberg, LEED AP Emily Stromberg, LEED AP
Bruce E. Brooks & Associates Joe Matje, PE
Torcon, Inc. Anthony Armento Angela Cirino
Video interview by Kacie Comly Liss.