“Rarely do I feel hungry,” says Tom Sexton, a resident at Philadelphia Protestant Home. “But when I do feel really hungry, it’s a very uncomfortable feeling. It must be terrible to be hungry and not be able to satisfy that need.”

The awareness of that hunger, right in PPH’s neighborhood, is why Tom came to start the PPH food drive, a one-year commitment to local food pantries in the area.

“Think about it,” he says. “We’re sitting pretty here. We have everything we need here. A mile away, people are looking at an empty refrigerator. We have a responsibility to do whatever we can, especially those of us who have so much that we take it for granted.”

Tom, who runs the food drive with help from wife Marguerite and Bill Conaway, director of community relations, has been touched at the amount of food residents are donating. “People are really generous,” he says. “I have a car with a lot of room and Bill has a car — we fill up both cars to take the food over.”

And it’s not just what people happen to have on hand that gets donated. “Now when people shop, they keep in mind that they want to donate to the food pantry, so they buy a little extra every time they go shopping,” Tom says.

How it all started

“My wife Marguerite and I were driving around Tabor Avenue at Christmastime, and saw all these cars lined up. At first we thought it was a concert, but really, all the people were lined up to get food,” Tom explains. “It really shocked me because we get our meals here where we live, and to think that right around the corner are our neighbors and they’re hungry. There was a lot in the newspaper about food insecurity during the pandemic. It bothered me that we have so much, and the people across the street are lined up to get food.”

“Every year, my wife does something to honor Dr. Martin Luther King through Hot Topics, a PPH group that discusses political issues and does things to help people,” Tom continues. “Last year, we made posters of appreciation for every department at PPH. This year, when I came up with the idea for the food drive, I took it to our little group, and we made this our project. Rather than do a one-day service, we decided, ‘Let’s make a more serious commitment. We’ll commit to a whole year (of the food drive).’”

Why not help our neighbors?

“I had thought, why don’t we help the people who live right around us?” Tom says. “So, in January and February, we took the food over to the Food for Hope Program connected to Memorial Presbyterian Church on Oxford Avenue. And then they seemed to be pretty well stocked. So, for March, we took the food to Philly Dream Center at 5500 Tabor Avenue. We’re going to take food there again in April and see how long they need help. If they’re in good shape, then we’ll take the food to the Berachah Church Food Pantry in Cheltenham.

Residents are eager to help

“The last week of every month, we put out two big bins where we live with a sign, ‘Put your food donations here,’” Tom explains. “We collect the food the last week of the month, and the first day of the next month, we deliver it.”

Tom isn’t sure exactly how many people are donating, but he goes down every day during the last week and has to keep emptying the bins. “Whoever’s donating, they’re being really generous, because we’re getting a lot of food.”

The reaction to the project here has been phenomenal, according to Tom. “People will come up and see me, and say, ‘Hey, thanks for doing that.’ People here are glad that they are able to contribute.”

PPH really is family

When Tom isn’t delivering food, he’s enjoying his life at PPH. “My wife and I moved here three years ago, and we can’t believe what a great place this is. The marketing slogan is, ‘We are family,’ but it’s more than just words. The people who live and work here live that saying,” he says. “We absolutely love it here. It’s the best decision we could have made. We can’t believe we found this place. We really loved our home in Abington, but we had no trouble adjusting to PPH because of the warmth, the friendliness, the good food, and the great service.”

Finding the right community

According to Tom, it took his wife and him about a year after deciding to move to a retirement community to find the right one. “My wife did a lot of research,” he says. “We lived at another place for a week to check it out. One of the big draws here was the indoor pool — you want to keep your body moving. Our kids don’t have to worry about us. If we need more care, we move into a different section. You’ll never find a place where you feel more cared for.”

What’s Tom’s favorite thing about PPH? He pauses a moment. “I just think they go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Any time they can celebrate, they will. On St. Patrick’s Day, staff delivered pretzels and a can of beer … they’re always looking for things to celebrate,” he explains. “On the Phillies’ Opening Day, they delivered special snacks.”

“There’s just a friendly attitude here,” Tom says. “It starts at the top, and it’s a very warm place. The people who work here cannot do enough for you. It’s impossible not to like it here.”

We hope to see you here on our welcoming campus soon! For more information about life at PPH or to schedule a visit, please contact us at 215-697-8000.