TEAM MEMBER PROFILE: ERIC SODANO FINDS HIS PERFECT FIT AT MANTUA APARTMENTS
Eric Sodano has always wanted to help others in his hometown of Philadelphia. As Social Services Coordinator at Mantua, he’s the residents’ go-to guy.
The will and desire to help people has been embedded within Eric Sodano for as long as he can remember.
Growing up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, his mother was a nurse and his father was a family therapist.
So when it came to pick a career, Eric had a pretty strong sense of what he would like to do with his life.
“Helping people is just part of who I am. It’s just natural,” Eric said. “Between my mom and dad’s careers, it’s all just kind of funneled down into this. I like interacting with people.”
Eric is the Social Services Coordinator at Mantua Apartments in West Philadelphia and Mt. Tabor Senior Cyber Village in Northern Liberties, positions he’s held for almost two years now. He spends four days a week at Mantua and one day a week at Mt. Tabor. Both are Affordable Housing communities in the Presby’s Inspired Life family.
Eric’s duties are very wide-ranging. One minute he could be helping a resident make sure his/her benefits are in order, the next minute he could be on the phone trying to coordinate an event for the residents.
Whatever a resident needs, Eric is there for them at the snap of a finger. In many ways, he’s the residents’ Mr. Do It All.
“My job is to make sure the residents have what they need to be independent in their homes,” Eric explained. “That’s connecting people with resources, benefits, services and things like that. That’s working with people individually.
“But there’s also working with people on a community level when it comes to coordinating events and speakers and things like that. I’ve been helping out with our newsletters a lot.”
Eric’s journey from his roots in Germantown to Mantua Apartments hasn’t been a usual ride down Lincoln Drive or the Schuylkill Expressway like it would be for many Philadelphians.
After graduating from Chestnut Hill College with a degree in human services, Eric went to work locally for a firm that coordinates in-home services for people with disabilities. Within three years, the firm decided to downsize and Eric found himself burnt out and frustrated with the lack of help.
Eric had an opportunity to move to Hawaii to help a family member, so he and his wife jumped at the chance. For the three years he stayed in Hawaii, Eric worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters, where he coordinated mentoring programs for children.
But the pull of Philadelphia and the desire to help people in his hometown eventually brought Eric back East.
“When you do the work in the social services realm, it’s a lot of interfacing with people and cultural dynamics come into play,” Eric explained. “I was able to really be effective with what I did in Hawaii, but I always had that hurdle of not being from the place where the people I was working with were from.
“I loved what I did in Hawaii, but I also know I can work within the inner-city Philadelphia dynamic. It’s a lot easier for me and I feel like, just professionally, I’m in a better position to invoke changes here.”
When Eric moved back in 2015, he saw an opening for the Social Services Coordinator position at Mantua and applied.
“I remember when I interviewed with (Mantua manager) Melissa (Jackson-Deeble) that I was very impressed by the community and thinking to myself, ‘That’s a place I could work,’” Eric explained.
“It was a really, really great decision. … I can say, coming up on two years into this experience, it’s wonderful. I love working with the people I work with here.”
The feeling is mutual.
“He does all of it. Everything,” Mantua resident Jerry Butler said of Eric. “When you call him, he’s there. I’ve never met a man like Eric. He’s like the song says, he’ll never say no.”
Eric and Jerry are particularly close. In fact, Eric was preparing to head to a doctor’s office to pick up Jerry’s medication, which Jerry forgot at the office during an appointment earlier in the day.
Jerry is a 100-year-old World War II veteran who lives independently at Mantua. He’s also admittedly stubborn and persistent, and Eric is one of the few people who can get through to him when he’s in one of those moods.
Eric recalled a time when Jerry wasn’t feeling well and the paramedics had to be called to Mantua. As the paramedics took Jerry to the hospital, Eric noticed Jerry didn’t have shoes on his feet. So Eric went into Jerry’s apartment, picked up a pair of shoes and drove them down to the hospital.
Nurses at the hospital were told only to let family in to see patients in the unit Jerry was in. So when Eric went to visit and drop the shoes off, he was surprised when he was let in so easily.
“I remember walking in and Jerry motioned for me to come over,” Eric recalled. “He then shouted, ‘I told them you were my brother!” Ever since, the two have joked with each other that they actually are brothers.
But the praise for Eric from residents does not stop there.
“If we have problems or situations, we know we can call on him,” said Harriett Waddell, who has lived at Mantua for the past six years (For more on Harriett and how she came to Mantua, click here). “He gives us advice on a lot of different things that we didn’t know because we didn’t have a social worker like him before. Now we do.
“He’s here, so if we have any problems or anything, we can come and ask him about it. There are a lot of things where we can go to him and he’ll look into it and he’ll fight for us.
“He’s feisty. He’s a fighter for us.”
*Eric’s service and dedication to Presby’s Inspired Life was honored recently as he was named Presby’s 2017 Distinguished Service Caregiver of the Year (Non-Nursing) Award winner.
Mantua Apartments is a Presby’s Inspired Life-sponsored community that offers 65 units of HUD-PRAC Affordable Housing in West Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood.