1321 N. American Street, Suite 101, Philadelphia, PA 19122

At Dwell 2nd Street, our community is taking incredible steps to support each other while continuing to pursue their passions at the same time. Our new neighbor, Harriett’s Bookshop, has shown us how much can be done with a little creativity and positivity—even during tough times.

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with the bookshop’s owner, Jeannine Cook. She described her book collection as a way to celebrate women authors, artists, and activists—just like the shop’s eponym, Harriet Tubman. However, her mission faced a challenge when she was forced to close the shop’s doors after just six weeks of business due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Cook described the rush of closing as “scary and fast.” In what felt like the blink of an eye, she was left thinking, “What now?” She packed up some books and moved her business online as best she could.

Then, in the midst of so much uncertainty, a phone conversation inspired her. One of her customers called to inquire about books she could give to her neighbor—a nurse who had become sick with COVID-19. At the same time, Cook had been working on a project for the bookshop with Dr. Gina South— Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania— who told her that this situation was more common than most people thought. She explained that many people just wanted to be able to escape to a world that wasn’t their own right now.

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A few weeks ago, one of our customers, Vee, said she was sending books to her neighbor because she was a nurse who'd fallen ill on the frontlines while fighting the novel coronavirus. Vee found all of this research which reinforced her initial thought– reading is in fact a great prescription for wellness in our minds, bodies, and souls. This is how the Harriett's Bookshop team formed this initiative– #EssentialsforEssentials–a wish list of essential books for our essential workers. Each person on this list works at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania or Penn Presbyterian Medical Center Department in the Emergency Departments saving lives. Dr. Gina, who is a remarkable human being and ER doctor, has been running giveaways on her social media account for Harriett's Bookshop for the last three weeks. When we approached her about the idea, she said it was excellent and in less than 12 hours she had 50 essentials who'd signed up to participate in this first round of Essentials for Essentials. In addition to purchasing a book for someone working in the emergency room at a local Philly hospital, we are also asking you to leave a short note for them in the notes section sharing what you'd "prescribe" for them as they continue working for all of us. We will print these notes and give them to each worker along with the book they deemed essential. Thank you all for participating. P.S. Leave your address in shipping. We will deliver to the hospital. -Harriett's Bookshop

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This led to the creation of Essentials for Essentials. For this initiative, healthcare workers can submit a wishlist, and others can buy the books for them with a “wellness prescription.” Cook says some prescriptions convey humor while others are tear-inducing. People can use them to share their hopes and well wishes for the many nurses and doctors who are continuing to work right now.

Cook said that Dr. Gina South, who has been an important part of the whole process, “didn’t want it to just be for doctors. It’s a whole team of folks that keep hospitals moving and running.” This applies to all front line workers including doctors, nurses, custodial staff, and more. Currently, four hospitals are partaking in Essentials for Essentials: HUP, CHOP, Penn Presbytarian and Good Shepherd.

This project has led to some heartwarming interactions between healthcare workers and bookshop customers. One healthcare worker was so overjoyed with their book that they wanted to send one back to the person who bought it. South remarked that after seeing the initiative come to life, it made her “remember our shared humanity in all of this.”

“I love to see an important small business in the neighborhood get supported financially because of people’s generosity to frontline workers,” South added.

We’re so excited to have Harriett’s Bookshop join us and make our neighborhood more welcoming, even if it’s temporarily remote. Click here to send your own wellness prescription, and then take a virtual tour of Dwell 2nd Street to discover more about what makes our community special.