“Tony N’ Tina”: Play To Benefit Kensington-Based Angels In Motion Program
Nearly every day, Carol Rostucher is out walking the streets of Philadelphia and the nearby counties.
“Today I started in Glendolden, then over to Street Road, then to Darby, then back to Glenolden, to Kensington, to 33rd and Susquehanna,” Rostucher said. “Today was a crazy day.”
Along her journeys, Rostucher passes out bags of food, hygiene products and resource fliers to the homeless and addicted, counseling those who are open to advice and listening to others who wish to tell their stories.
Rostucher’s Kensington-based Angels in Motion program was born about a year-and-a-half ago, growing out of her experiences with her son, who was an active-user of heroin for five years. He’s now been in recovery for 19 months.
“He was in Kensington and I’d go down looking for him. You’d see all these individuals, just lost people, and everyone walks by them like they don’t exist,” Rostucher said.
She began striking up conversations with the people she saw on the street and eventually started bringing them bags of supplies.
“I’d put in things I know my son loved: chocolate pop-tarts, apple sauce, peanut-butter crackers, granola bars. I’d run out so fast, I was like, ‘How am I going to keep doing this?’”
Rostucher shared her experiences on Facebook and donations and volunteers poured in. The movement exploded after the Daily News covered her efforts.
The organization has now officially been incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit and has about 100 active volunteers who distribute 250 “blessing bags” each week in Kensington and other areas. The food bags include non-perishable items, and the hygiene bags offer items like sample-sized toothpastes, alcohol swabs and Band-Aids.
Rostucher said she encourages people she meets on the streets to seek recovery if they’re ready, and the organization continues to work with people once they do start a program, offering them resources, along with clothing and care packages, with notes of encouragement.
The group has 4,200 members and holds twice-monthly meetings, one for support and the other for education.
Most volunteers and members are loved ones of those in addiction or recovery.
“Though we do have some people who don’t have addiction in their family; they just are so compassionate and all people matter to them,” Rostucher noted.
Despite the flourishing support, AIM survives solely on private donations and proceeds from fundraisers, which Rostucher said go quickly.
“I’ll get a call from a treatment center and they’ll say, ‘Carol, we have five people here who need to get an ID card or they can’t stay in their program. And it’s $28.50 for an ID,” she said. “How do you say no to that, knowing that, with this $28.50, this person can be off the streets and off heroin?”
Karen Cellini also knows the scourge of heroin.
After her nephew was shot and killed at a Northeast Philadelphia playground, his brother turned to self-medicating, opening the gate to a heroin addiction. Cellini went on to found The Good Mother Project as a creative outlet for people touched by violence and addiction.
Last year, Cellini heard about Rostucher’s work and the two went out for a ride through Kensington, discovering their shared interest in empowering those facing addiction — in addition to their commonalities of growing up in Kensington and attending Little Flower High School.
“I was amazed,” Cellini said about watching Rostucher interact with those they encountered. “She’s so connected to everyone, and everyone is so connected to her. She’s an angel.”
After learning of the program’s dearth of funding, Cellini, a co-producer of “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” — the iconic interactive play founded in the 1980s — suggested staging the production to fundraise for AIM.
A benefit performance is set for 5PM October 9th. The “ceremony” portion of the event will take place at the Church of St. Luke & The Epiphany (330 S. 13th) followed by the “reception” at Gershman Y, 401 S. Broad St.
Tickets are $75 and include the show, music, dancing and an Italian-dinner buffet. The event is BYOB.
“We’re going to have a lot of laughs, but it’ll also be a fun, really nice, down-to-earth group of people, all helping a great cause,” Rostucher said. “The people on the streets cannot help themselves and somebody has to speak up for them and guide them. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
“It takes a village,” echoed Cellini. “A whole community has to come together with open hearts, love and trust. You can’t be afraid to look into people’s eyes, so they know they’ve been seen.”
For tickets to “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding,” visit aimangelsinmotion.org. •