by Pete Mazzaccaro 

There was a lot of surprise and confusion this weekend following the news that the venerable Neighborhood Interfaith Movement was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and shutting down operations permanently. So swift was the move that it shocked even those close to the organization, including employees.

The announcement was made Thursday, Nov. 29. The next day the organization was closed. Even the organization’s landlord, Ken Weinstein, was taken by surprise, telling WHYY’s Newsworks that he was scrambling for a new tenant for the organization’s headquarters at 7014 Germantown Ave.

Statements issued by NIM’s board have not hinted at the real reason for the closure, inviting speculation. While theories of the organization’s downfall vary, one thing is definite: It is difficult to believe that an institution so large and influential for so long could suddenly be wiped out.

NIM, as it has been known since it was founded in 1969 as Northwest Interfaith Movement, was a long-time mover and shaker, not only in Northwest Philadelphia where it was founded and composed of affiliate congregations in Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, but also in the city.

In 1981, the group was able to organize a citywide coalition to put pressure on the School Board of Philadelphia to conduct a nationwide search to find a superintendent. It worked on issues involving HIV/AIDS, homelessness, housing, public safety and poverty. When I first started writing for the Local more than 13 years ago, one of the first events I covered was a NIM-sponsored symposium on new Welfare to Work law requirements.

The organization’s star was so large that in 1994, when the organization marked it’s 25th anniversary, the renowned theologian Dr. Harvey Cox and the folk singer Odetta were among the guests.

NIM fostered and founded a host of organizations that remain with us still, including Central Germantown Council and Northwest Victims Services.

When it closed its doors, NIM was administering dozens of programs from education and after-school aides to services for the aging.

We hope that NIM employees who have suddenly found themselves out of work will be able to find work with some of the organizations with which they were already partnered. The work is extremely important and should continue.

In an article in 1994 on the organization’s 25th anniversary, former NIM director the Rev. Richard “Dick” Fernandez told the Local that NIM’s task was “to make the city work for the many rather than the few. … Not only will NIM be needed, more NIMs will be needed.”

NIM touched a lot of people and was a vital part of the city, particularly in the Northwest. Its absence will leave an immense hole not easily filled.