PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In recognition of Black History Month, we are honoring Gamechangers who are making a positive impact on communities of color in our area. A West Philadelphia business owner has transformed a drug corner into a community hub.
Arnett Woodall is a proud man.
“I’m going to stay true to the people and speak for the people,” he said.
Woodall is the owner of West Phillie Produce, located on 62nd Street near Ludlow Street.
Unlike most corner stores, you won’t find junk food here. Instead, there are fresh veggies and fruit along with other healthy options– and that’s just the beginning.
“We have a garden club, a chess club,” Woodall said. “We interact with the youth, we interact with the seniors, we are inter-generational.”
Fifteen years ago, the corner was rife with drugs and violence, but Woodall had an idea.
He asked the youth what would help. They said smoothies and water ice, so they transformed a vacant lot.
“We built it up from the ground up, using youth mixed with skilled labor,” he said.
Woodall also trained youth in landscaping, construction and cleanups.
“You give them jobs and you teach them and train them and it works,” said Woodall.
Today, West Phillie Produce is a community hub bursting at the seams. They provide safe UPS package pick up, a market for entrepreneurs and give away tons of produce each week — all while keeping people safe.
“These cameras have been operating for 10 years now,” Woodall said.
The surveillance helps prevent crime.
“It’s community policing because it’s done by the community,” he said.
The location helped Woodall save lives. In 2013, the West Philadelphia High School grad pulled a woman from a burning car that crashed nearby.
“I just dove through the fire,” Woodall said.
Just last year, he saved a mother and daughter caught in crossfire and soon after, he launched a campaign to save lives.
“Get down, don’t look around — we teach that,” Woodall said.
This makes the father of three a source for city and state leaders, and lots of headlines.
“What’s your vision?” Cherri Gregg asked.
“Everything you see here is going to be a solution for the community and this is just a small prototype model,” Woodall said.
Woodall wants more produce shops in urban areas across the country, changing the game by turning drug corners into safe havens.