Dorothy D. Allen, a community activist and deaconess, died on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. She was 96.
She was affectionately known as “Dottie.” She was born on March 4, 1923, in Philadelphia to the late Jonathan and Christine Taylor. She was one of eight children born to their union. She was raised in South Philadelphia.
Her parents were the founding members of the Mount Hebron Baptist Church, where she grew to love the Lord. As an adult, she left Mount Hebron and joined the Christian Faith Baptist Church. She later returned to Mount Hebron and was active until her health declined in 2014.
Allen was educated in the Philadelphia public school system and graduated from Southwark High School, now South Philadelphia High School. She later attended and graduated from trade school, where she learned to perfect her sewing craft.
In the 1940s, she married the late Edward White Sr. and two children were born to their union. She later married Robert Allen in the late 1970s.
Allen worked in various business ventures that supported the community in some shape or form. She and her late husband, Robert, started their first sewing factory business in 1948, teaching individuals how to make clothing. Years later they purchased a home on the 1200 block of Bucknell Street.
In 1950, Allen began working for the government at the Quartermaster. She worked there for more than 20 years as a seamstress, making service uniforms until she retired due to illness in the early 1970s.
She stayed home for two years until one summer day her grandson Jimmy complained about not being able to get a free lunch. Allen began to investigate and learn more about the free lunch program and how others in the community could benefit. She reached out to the late Charles W. Bowser, the first African-American deputy mayor of Philadelphia, for grant assistance to host the free lunch program at her house. For Allen, this led to decades of community activism, politics and leadership.
In the 1970s, she began her community activism on Bucknell Street. She was the matriarch and block captain of Bucknell Street and was responsible for planting cherry blossom trees.
Allen started a community center on the corner of Wharton and Bucknell streets, where she offered after-school activities, arts and crafts, sports, theater, tutoring, games and educational programs. She wanted to ensure that all educational needs of the children were met.
In the late ‘70s, she moved the facility to a new home on the corner on 24th and Wharton streets, which was named Barrett Educational Center, Inc. after the late U.S. Rep. William Barrett. Allen was well connected to various city officials, senators and state representatives who played roles in the start of the educational center.
For more than six decades, Allen served many generations of people ranging from 2 years old to seniors. She offered carpentry, electrical, sewing and typing classes, grant writing, administrative assistance, programs for seniors, social security and birth certificate needs, resume writing, notary assistance, property rebate and income tax assistance, day care, a GED program, food distribution through Shared Food and Philabundance, summer camp and the free lunch program. She managed all funds and finances according to the needs of the community and the facility.
For decades, Allen was responsible for the hiring of thousands of teenagers and young adults. She received praise, awards and citations for her labor and work in the community.
Allen was a faithful tithing member of Mount Hebron for more than two decades. She served as a missionary, Sunday school superintendent, Girl Scouts leader and Vacation Bible School facilitator, sang on the Senior Choir and established the church’s food cupboard. Allen was responsible for the design and hand sewing all of the choir robes when needed and made hats for the deaconesses.
She was preceded in death by her children, Christine Johnson (William) and Edward White (Wilhelmina); grandson, James B. Crews; and granddaughter, Victoria White.
She is survived by: her grandchildren, Derrick J. White Sr. (Rhonda), Alex White (Tawana), Tiphane White and Jonathan S. White Sr. (Lekeya); niece, Betty Floyd; friend, Ruth Hunter; and other relatives and friends.
The first viewing will be held Jan. 9 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Slater Funeral Home, 1426 Fitzwater St.
The second viewing will be held Jan. 10 at 10 a.m. at Yesha Ministries Worship Center, 2301 Snyder Ave. Services will follow at 11 a.m. Burial is in Chelten Hills Cemetery.