Ever wonder what it’s like to be a member of Philly Fellows? In the ‘Meet Our Fellows’ series, we’ll introduce you to our current fellows, their projects, and how they are benefiting from the Philly Fellows program. This post features Daniel Shea, who is serving as the Food Buying Club Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator at Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha.

Name: Daniel Shea

Hometown: San Bruno, California

University: Villanova University

Major: Sociology and Spanish

How did you decide to become a Philly Fellow?

Around the time I started as a freshman at Villanova, I developed an interest in working in nonprofits. The following year, I started volunteering as an advocate at LIFT-Philadelphia, a community resource center located in West Philly where I worked through the end of my junior year. My experience there confirmed my interest in working in social services and sparked my interest in staying and working in Philly after graduation. As I planned what was next after Villanova, Philly Fellows stood out to me as the best opportunity to get started in Philly nonprofit work.

Let’s talk about your project. What’s your site like? What are you working on? 

My project has been great! I’m working at Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha, a social services, health and human services, and community development nonprofit in North Philly. I’m the Community Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator for APM’s Food Buying Club, a program that increases access to fresh and affordable produce in Philly by helping members pool resources and buy fruits and vegetables wholesale. The program has grown a ton while I’ve been here. We coordinate orders every two weeks; at the start of my year with the FBC, we were getting about thirty or forty orders every two weeks and operating out of one site. We’re currently operating out of eight sites and are getting about 100 orders every two weeks! It’s been a great time to be a part of the FBC, and I’ve learned a lot from my experience at APM.

Community living is one of the most important aspects of the Philly Fellows program. What’s this like? How have you benefited?

The community living aspect of the program has been great for me! We ended up with a really good group of five fellows in our house, and we’ve all become close over the course of this year. It’s great because we’re all at similar points in our lives and often have similar experiences at work, so we can all support each other through that and share our experiences with one another. It can get a little tight sharing a refrigerator and a stove between five people who all shop and cook for themselves, but overall we’ve been really lucky.

What’s your favorite part about being a Philly Fellow so far?

I’d say my favorite part of being a Philly Fellow so far has been getting to know parts of Philly I hadn’t spent much time in before this year. I had previously worked in West Philly and around Northern Liberties, and of course had spent some time in Center City while I was a student at Villanova. Living in Graduate Hospital and working in North Philly this year, I’ve gotten to explore other parts of the city a bit more and have really enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend going to Reggae Reggae Vibes at 5th and Girard for some solid Jamaican food, or going to Bob and Barbara’s on South Street the Sunday night of any three-day weekend to watch Philly Fellow RJ Tischler put on a karaoke spectacular.

Have you had any major successes since starting your Philly Fellows term?

I was named a finalist for this year’s Mayor’s Distinguished National Service Award – it meant a lot to have my work and the work of the FBC recognized by the mayor’s office, and (as they say) it was an honor to be nominated. Additionally, the FBC was recognized as a winner of this year’s Blue Ribbon Award for Community Development Excellence by the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations! I’ve been really lucky to be a part of such a great program, and it was really exciting to see the FBC recognized for positively influencing the neighborhood where we work and for advancing equity in food. 

What’s the most challenging part of being a Philly Fellow?

I found that it took me a month or two to feel really settled in my work placement and to feel confident in the work that I was doing for my program. When your placement is only for a year, that can feel like a really long time. I found that getting comfortable with asking questions at work was really important for me – maybe easier said than done, but without asking a lot of questions, I don’t think I would have learned nearly as much as I did this year.

The question everyone’s probably asking: any idea what’s next? What do you hope to do after Philly Fellows? 

I’ll be moving to Austin, Texas to start a masters’ degree in social work at the University of Texas. I’ll be studying a concentration in administration and policy practice, and afterwards, I’m hoping to continue working in community development. I’ve really enjoyed Austin when I’ve visited and I’m excited to get to know a new city, but I’ll definitely miss Philly!

What three items would you take with you on a deserted island?

I’m glad you asked. Honorable mentions include a satellite phone and an inflatable raft, but my top three desert island items are: 

1) A lighter – any of my roommates who watched me the last time we tried to start our charcoal grill would tell you that I’m inexplicably not able to figure out how to use matches. It’s just not in the cards for me. 

2) A hammock – somewhere to sleep and I guess maybe you might be able to use it as a fishing net? I don’t know, but we can cross that bridge when we get there.

3) A Sixers hat – it’ll be important to have some protection from the sun, and being trapped on a desert island seems like it would be as good a time as any to Trust the Process.