Angel L. Medina, the Latino who founded Philadelphia Prevention Partnership, dies at 70
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Angel L. Medina, the founder and retired executive director of Philadelphia Prevention Partnership, passed away on April 11, 2023, at the age of 70. His family has stated that the cause was lung cancer.
Medina was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico on July 13, 1952, to the late Angel and Maria Medina. At the age of three, he and his parents moved to Philadelphia, where his father owned and managed his grocery store.
Medina had a lifelong career combating substance abuse and would later found the Philadelphia Prevention Partnership (PPP) during the 1990s in order to help the people of the city.
The Philadelphia Prevention Partnership is a nonprofit coalition of community partnerships working together to prevent drug abuse and provide social aid programs for communities.
Nilsa Pagan, the current executive director of PPP, was close to Medina, having previously worked for him as his administrative assistant. When Medina retired from the role in 2016, he nominated her to be his successor.
“He was my mentor for over 25 years,” Pagan said to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “He took me under his wing. He saw something in me before I even saw it in myself.”
“A great leader does not always think their way of doing things is always right,” she continued. “He was a great leader, but he could be corrected, too.”
Before Medina founded the PPP, he was already involved in combating drug addictions as a social worker and addiction therapist for Coordinating Office of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Programs (CODAAP), a Philadelphia city agency.
During the tail end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, Medina was the executive director of Woodrock Inc., an organization that sought to improve cross-community relations in Northeast Philadelphia and Kensington.
Before that, Medina was the cofounder and clinical director of Central Payan at Concilio, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the Latino youth of the city. Pagan described it as the first bilingual and bicultural outpatient treatment center in Pennsylvania, being among the first in the nation.
Pagan passed on a Spanish saying of Medina's: “El pueblo salva el pueblo,” or "the people will save the people."
Over his career, Medina has supported many in becoming new leaders. With Pagan's aid, Medina launched two leadership training programs under the PPP: the Institute of African American Mobilization (IAAM) and the Latino Partnership Institute (LPI).
The IAAM worked with African-American communities in Philadelphia to build understanding of the broader effects of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, reaching out to those working in prevention and treatment programs, and as social workers.
The LPI sought to reach out to and support the City's Latino communities, whose disproportionate suffering from high rates of poverty, low household income, unemployment, and high school dropout rates impact substance abuse.
At times the City would send over qualified people to do what the PPP did, Pagan explained. But without the cultural understanding the PPP had, they would fail where Medina and his team would not.
Both programs would work with the PPP to host Saturday leadership training programs, teaching members of their communities leadership skills, conflict resolution, and board development.
Among the graduates of the PPP's leadership programs are State Representative Jason Dawkins, Lighthouse Executive Director Edwin Desamour, and restaurant owner Hector Serrano.
It was through his work that Medina would meet his future wife, Minerva, while she worked with his agency.
“I thought he was such a smart man. He was kindhearted and always trying to help people," Minerva Medina said to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It was not just his job, he really wanted to help people.”
When the two married, Mrs. Medina brought with her two children from a previous marriage, and he brought three. Despite the five children they cared for, Medina offered his home to those who needed a place to stay, including relatives, friends, and once, a stranger.
The two made annual trips to Puerto Rico, bringing along his grandchildren on occasion to the home he had there.
Pagan is now also a minister at Bridge of Hope Ministries. During his funeral service on Tuesday, April 18, she read a eulogy for Medina at the Geitner-Givnish Funeral Home on North Fifth Street.
“I’m forever grateful to him because he gave me a love for my people and my island that I never knew I had,” Pagan said. “Now every time I look at the injustices and the inequities, it flares something in me. He would pick a fight, but the fight was for a cause.”
Medina is survived by his wife, his sister, his 6 children, 13 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren, his relatives, and his former associates.