These are deeply sad days for NKCDC. Last month, we received word that longtime Kensington advocate and community champion, Elmira Smith, died unexpectedly on January 24. This month we attended the funeral of our Executive Director, Felix Torres-Colon, who passed away on February 5 after a brief illness.
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.
Ms. Myra 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.
Felix Torres-Colon was a veteran leader in the community development field with decades of real estate development experience at NeighborWorks America organizations. He began at NKCDC in March 2017, quickly investing in culture-shaping initiatives around race and equity, trauma-informed community development, and sustainable business practices. In his tenure, NKCDC completed an office move, hired a third more staff, began a new affordable housing development, and received new funding from sources like the U.S. Department of Justice, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Kresge Foundation.
Prior to NKCDC, Felix was the Director of Program Development at Saint Joseph’s Carpenter Society in Camden, New Jersey, and led Neighborhood Housing Services agencies in Baltimore, Maryland, and Manchester, New Hampshire. He and his wife, Sharon, fostered and placed more than 70 homeless dogs and adopted three fur babies of their own—George, Gracie, and Diesel.
Celebrating lives well lived
NKCDC is grieving. We are also grateful for the time Ms. Myra and Felix gave to NKCDC, and the legacy they leave us to continue. We find ourselves united by the warmth, courage and determination of these stalwart Philadelphia leaders.
The NKCDC Board has appointed Bea J. E. Rider, formerly Director of Resource Development and Communications, to serve as Interim Executive Director.
At the request of Felix’s family, memorial donations can be made to NKCDC or Monkey’s House hospice for dogs. NKCDC has created a special fund in Felix’s memory to support staff development and racial equity work, two of his greatest professional passions.
NKCDC will host a Celebration of Life for Felix at Philadelphia Brewing Company (2440 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia) on Saturday, March 7 from noon – 3:00 PM. Learn more about Felix and Ms. Myra on our tribute pages.