Chester Williams

Reverend Chester Williams stands in the parking lot of the closed Bottom Dollar store, which was the only grocery store in the Chew-Belfield neighborhood. Williams has been persistently reaching out to the new owners of the store, Aldi, to try to get them to reopen the store.

Rev. Chester Williams stands in the parking lot of the closed Bottom Dollar store, the only grocery store in his neighborhood. Williams is persistently reaching out to the new owners of the store, Aldi, to try to get them to reopen.

Rev. Chester Williams – 6200 Chew Avenue

Reverend Chester Williams places a green washcloth on his head for protection from the hot sun. He just finished leading a two-hour volunteer cleanup crew on Chew Avenue and is still wearing his orange safety vest. The 68-year-old block captain looks worried as he stands in the parking lot of the shuttered Bottom Dollar Food store on the corner of Chew and E. Washington Lane in Germantown.

Last November, Bottom Dollar Food’s parent company, the Delhaize Group, sold its 66 stores in Pennsylvania to ALDI, Inc, leaving the Chew-Belfield neighborhood without a grocery store. “This is a hardship for the people,” said Williams. “Now they have to travel several miles to buy groceries. Some people just can’t travel. And many can’t afford the prices at the corner stores.”

Williams is campaigning for Aldi to reopen the store. He calls and writes letters to Aldi representatives regularly. He also lobbies his city councilor, Cindy Bass, advocating for a grocery store to reopen in the neighborhood. “I want to keep it fresh in their minds,” says Williams.

According to reports, Aldi will reopen several Philadelphia stores in 2015, but the Chew Avenue store will not be one of them. Williams is also worried about the property becoming derelict and dangerous. When there is litter, he picks it up. When graffiti appears on the building’s walls, he calls the city to clean it.

Williams is a highly visible and industrious community leader. He is the founder of the Chew/Belfield Neighborhood Association and Democratic committee leader for the 59th ward. His face appears on buses and trash bins throughout this city, a featured as a hero in the city’s UnLitterUs campaign.

Williams labors for economic justice in Philadelphia and will keep pushing for essential resources for his community. “I just have to keep praying and keep calling,” he says.

Reverend Chester Williams leads a monthly meeting of block captains from the Chew/Belfield neighborhood in his driveway. Photo by Lori Waselchuk

Rev. Chester Williams leads a monthly meeting of block captains from the Chew/Belfield neighborhood in his driveway.

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