"The staff here does the very best that they can with what they have...Remember: ax the tax means ax the improvements to this rec center."
- Councilwoman Cherelle Parker
By Rebuild Philadelphia
Rebuilding Community Infrastructure (Rebuild) is a seven-year, $500 million public private investment in Philadelphia's neighborhoods. Proposed in Mayor Jim Kenney’s first budget as a part of his vision for a more equitable Philadelphia, Rebuild seeks to revitalize recreation centers, parks and libraries, empower and engage communities and promote economic opportunity through diversity and inclusion. To highlight the need for Rebuild investment before sites are selected, Mayor Kenney, City Council and City staff are touring community spaces in need of improvements.
Picture (above): Mayor Kenney, Councilwoman Parker Tour Olney Rec Center.
Mayor Kenney, Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation (PPR) staff and Rebuild Executive Director Nicole Westerman toured Olney Recreation Center on May 25 to highlight the need for Rebuild investments.
The tour showcased the many physical improvements needed at Olney Recreation Center, including better lighting and new security cameras around the play area and building to improve safety, a new roofing system, new electrical service, vents and air-conditioning in the gym, new gym floors and more. Additionally, the Olney Eagles Youth Organization’s club house needs renovations.
"We need a new water fountain."
During the tour, Mayor Kenney and Councilwoman Parker were stopped by a group of kids who had been playing basketball outside. The kids wanted to ask the Mayor to fix their rec center. "We need a new water fountain. Ours don't work." Another boy asked for swings and a new basketball court. Another pleaded his case for a new playground.
Ceramics and Art Class
Mayor Kenney and Councilwoman Parker visited the art program, which is held in a small back room of the Rec Center that doubles as storage. Olney doesn't have a kiln, so rec leader Emily Coleman drives the kids' projects several miles away to be fired.
Performing Arts Program
Olney Recreation Center is well-known for its sports programs, but it also has a vibrant performing arts program. Dancing, singing and acting take place in a long mirrored room with a small stage. Mayor Kenney heard from the kids and the program administrators about what their recreation center needs.
Pictured below: Mayor Kenney, Councilwoman Parker, Olney Recreation Center Advisory Council members and local kids pose for a photo.
A New Advisory Council
Olney Rec Center recently launched its Recreation Advisory Council. Membership is small, but very active and engaged. With support from the Olney Eagles Youth Organization, local community members and the Advisory Council, Olney is working to change the perception of the recreation center in the community as a welcoming and safe place with programming for people of all ages. Lori Gray, Olney's Recreation Advisory Council President (pictured above, far right, denim jacket), said, "We've got to build up the community and then bring that sense of community back here to the rec center. Once the community knows that they are loved, cared for and safe, I think the neighborhood can change. I think this place can be that change."