Rec centers: ‘We need a whole lot’

Residents want Mayor Kenney to follow through with funding.

Community members sit in the 8th and Diamond Community Center March 4. | MARGO REED TTN

This past summer, 8th and Diamond Recreation Center received a new mural from the city’s Mural Arts program—a welcome addition, considering the building’s interior hasn’t been touched since the 1960s.

The building—located at 800 Diamond St.—is so small, there is nowhere for storage. Drapes stretch across the back wall to hide the inventory. Behind doors that look like a closet, there’s a full kitchen built into a wall, and cracks line the walls, one of which is big enough to see outside.

Mayor Jim Kenney proposed a $600 million budget for recreation centers and libraries on Thursday.

After-school program teacher Jackie Clark said there really isn’t much structurally wrong with the facility. She did, however, call for new computers and internet in the facility to help the 20 kids she has on schedule and the other stragglers who pop in to do homework.

“We need a whole lot,” said Clark, who lives on Marshall Street near Norris. “But what we have, we make do with it.”

Computers were donated to the recreation center nearly 10 years ago, but they could no longer process newer programs so they were discarded about four years ago. The facility has never had Internet.

Clark said when things break, it takes a long time until they’re fixed. About 10 years ago, monkey bars were removed from the playground, and the recreation center has requested replacement monkey bars twice a year for the past six years.

Lorraine Haw, a volunteer at the center, said the needs are higher in North Philadelphia recreation centers than other recreation centers in the Philadelphia area.

“[Politicians] may think we’re happy with every little bit they give us, but that’s far from the truth,” said Haw, who live on Allegheny Avenue near Jasper Street. “They have to realize we have to keep these kids occupied, this is their safe haven after school.”

“If there are problems [at home], they know they can run [to the recreation center],” she added. “This is their safe spot—that they know.”

To fundraise, the center will sell pretzels and water ice at basketball tournaments.

The center also holds worship ceremonies on Sundays for the former Seventh Street United Methodist Church. Narcotics Anonymous meetings are held weekly in the center, and the space is also used for baby showers.

Amos Recreation Center, on 16th Street near Berks, hosts community meetings and has a playground, pool and basketball court.

Lola Blount, an after-school employee at the center, said the facility sees 75 to 100 kids a week at the facility, with 20 coming regularly after school. Amos and the 8th and Diamond centers have common problems: no Internet and slow response time from the city in fixing problems.

Haw said Kenney and other city officials need to follow through on the new budget proposal.

“The city needs to wake up,” Haw said. “This is a safe haven for the children and these kids need a safe haven to go to until their parents who are working can come home and take care of them. Either that, or they’re on the corner doing stuff we don’t want them to do. … If you don’t want to fill up your jails, then let’s give these kids something to do with their time and then maybe they won’t get to do the things that puts them in jail.”

Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick.

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