Muneera Walker was knee deep in census work in her Lower Merion community when the pandemic began. Soon after, she saw her neighbors struggle to have enough food.
A former owner of a general contracting business and avid volunteer, Walker launched her nonprofit organization, Neighbors Helping Neighbors on the Main Line in response to food insecurity in her community. Since March, the effort has taken off and the charitable organization has delivered food weekly to 60 families in Lower Merion Township and another 50 families in Philadelphia.
Walker launched another “tentacle” of the organization, E Squared, Excelling in Education. About 50 students have received free virtual educational assistance in various subject areas from the organization’s pool of current and retired educators, parents, grandparents, high school students and all types of neighbors.
“As horrific as this time is for our nation and our world, I’m grateful that the shift toward virtual is actually helping me help the students in ways that I probably would not have thought of,” Walker said. “You always get some good with the bad.”
Neighbors Helping Neighbors on the Main Line is funded primarily through private donations. Other organizations, including a local food pantry, contribute food over-abundance to the cause.
“My goal has always been to elevate the opportunities and stature of our Black and Latinx communities in Lower Merion,” Walker said. “They have suffered disparities from the past that require strategic work and a lot of energy to correct. Neighbors Helping Neighbors is my opportunity and our opportunity to heal our community.”
As the nonprofit began to grow beyond Lower Merion – including Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Delaware County and soon Bucks County – a volunteer recommended that Walker seek out guidance from SCORE Bucks County for insight on grant funding, insurance coverage, business planning and more.
“SCORE has been a great asset to Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” Walker said. “It’s a phenomenal resource and everyone should know about it.”
SCORE Bucks County volunteer Kumar Natarajan and Rob Purdy began mentoring Walker during the summer.
“Muneera has found a very successful strategy and is most definitely meeting the needs of the communities,” Purdy said.
Most recently, the nonprofit has expanded to offer a VS3, Virtual School Sensory Support Program, which provides free sensory items, such as wobble cushions and fidgets for individuals with special needs.
What began as an initiative to feed Walker’s Lower Merion neighbors has since grown to become so much more.
“The main focus is to assist families in any way they need in order to help them rise up,” Walker said, adding that help can come in the form of food donations, educational services, financial assistance, coat drives and more. “Neighbors Helping Neighbors is all about helping each family and each child however they need help.”
Walker credits her team of 20 dedicated volunteers, along with her SCORE Bucks mentors with empowering her organization to make an impact.
“My desire is to be a lasting entity of help and change for ours and the expanded communities,” she said. “It’s not me. It’s not each individual volunteer. It’s not SCORE. It’s all of us. Together we’re changing the face of our community.”