Focus on Frankford: Gary McLaughlin

When he rose to speak at the Frankford Civic meeting back in April, I did not have the video camera turned on because I was not expecting much from the soft spoken guy sitting over in the corner.  The issue was the zoning variance application for a take-out fried chicken store at the corner of Griscom Street and Oxford Avenue.  McLaughlin opposed the variance and made it clear he was going to do everything in his power to stop it.  He expressed what the crowd of neighbors at that meeting was thinking and helped rouse them to further action.  Neighbors organized and with the help of many parties, the application for the store was withdrawn.

He grew up in North Philly and moved to Frankford and the 4700 block of Griscom Street in 1996.  He was among the first to purchase one of the homes newly rehabbed by the Frankford CDC.  He wanted to own his own home and it was a good price.  He was familiar with Frankford from shopping gary mclaughlinexcursions in his youth and remembered it well.

When he announced to family and friends that he was moving to Frankford, they thought he was crazy.  But as a recent graduate of St. Joe’s University with a BS in Sociology and embarking on a Master’s degree program in gerontology, he was thinking economy.  For the next few years, he worked full time and continued with school and got his MA in 2008.  Since then he has worked as a career services coordinator, career transitions specialist,  job developer, financial counselor, social worker and worked extensively with at-risk youth.

Today, a scant 6 months after that first Frankford Civic Association meeting, McLaughlin is the President of the Frankford Community Development Corporation and active in several other community groups.  He credits Sandra Barry, his neighbor and block captain, with trying to get him involved in community affairs for quite a long time but he was always too busy trying to make a living and get ahead.  That was until fried chicken threatened to destabilize what was then an up and down situation on their block.

For years the block has seen the ebb and flow of drug sales and the violence that comes with that way of life.  However, residents refused to accept the status quo and have set an example of how it can be combated by working with the police.  It is still an ongoing process but the quality of life is getting better.

He was recruited to the board of the CDC shortly after meeting Jason Dawkins, at the zoning hearing for the take-out store.  The CDC was in a period of transition at that time and Dawkins was looking for new board members.  McLaughlin saw that the only way forward was activism at a greater level than before and took a seat on the board.  From there he was elected President and has now had some time to think about the way forward for Frankford.

Forging partnerships with other community organizations, creating volunteer opportunities to get things done, asking residents what they believe is needed in Frankford are all on the horizon for the CDC.

McLaughlin wants people to know that he is not a politician but  “Anything that I can do to improve the life of somebody else, I’m definitely going to do”.  On a personal note, although he loves his two rescue dogs Zoe and Pepper, he wants to have a family at some point in the future.  He is working to make sure there is a better Frankford for them.

  • G. Gary II

    This man has always had a way with words and from our first meeting I knew he was someone you want on your team. He is someone with a true passion for community and I continue to follow and learn from his lead.

  • Tiffany Thurman

    I met Gary McLaughlin February 2013 during a business meeting. I was moved by his humility and passion for people! This article is spot on. Stay tuned…this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Mr. McLaughlin!