A lifetime of service
Elmira Smith, known to everyone as Ms. Myra, lived a lifetime of service as a government employee, business owner, block captain, civic association representative, neighbor, and friend.
She was treasurer of her local neighborhood association, Somerset Neighbors for Better Living, a founding member of the Friends of Trenton and Auburn Playground, and a member of the City of Philadelphia’s taskforce to address the opioid epidemic in Kensington.
She joined NKCDC’s first cohort of Community Connectors, assisting in the design of the program and outreach to what is now a network of dozens of local leaders. When NKCDC began partnering with Rebuilding Together Philadelphia to bring healthy home repairs to Kensington, she took the lead in recruiting 25 of her neighbors to receive the service. Ms. Myra also worked with NKCDC and Impact Services Corporation to develop a model for trauma-informed community engagement in Kensington.
Creating the Amber Street Garden
In 2016, Ms. Myra embarked on a project inspired by her closest neighbors to reclaim a neglected, 3-parcel-wide vacant lot that had turned into a hot spot for crime and drug use. Over the course of two years, she engaged neighbors in their homes, held community events and planning sessions, hosted clean-ups and work days, and collaborated with skilled neighbors, local artists, local businesses, Councilperson Mark Squilla, and NKCDC to transform the blighted property into a beautiful community flower garden and outdoor gathering space.
“It’s like a flower,” Ms. Myra said. “People cannot believe what has been done in such a short period of time.”
The Amber Street Garden was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer and in the 2018 edition of the PACDC Magazine from Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations. In 2019, PACDC gave Ms. Myra its annual Community Leadership Award.
Warmth and Tenacity
Ms. Myra’s deep roots in the neighborhood, her government and business background, her ready embrace of new people and ideas, and her fierce loyalty to Kensington allowed her to persist and succeed where others might have given up.
“NKCDC has been honored to work alongside Ms. Myra for the past five years,” said Katsí Miranda-Lozada, Community Engagement Director at NKCDC. “She was instrumental in bringing the Kensington community together and making positive change happen here. She is sorely missed.”