STRAWBERRY MANSION (WPVI) --For Council President Darrell Clarke, the opening of the Strawberry Mansion PAL Center means a great deal.
"If I was an emotional kind of guy, I would probably be shedding a tear, but growing up in this neighborhood, you weren't allowed to be an emotional kind of guy," Clarke said Saturday.
Clarke was on-hand for the final renovations to the center at the former LP Hill Middle School. He was joined by State Representative Donna Bullock, 40+ members of the Building Owners & Managers Association (BOMA), Police Athletic League (PAL) leadership, and community members, including 6abc President and General Manager Bernie Prazenica, the Chairman of PAL's Board of Directors.
Clarke looked back his time growing up in the very same neighborhood and saw things were different for kids today.
He said he got sad because there used to be places to go as a kid in the neighborhood.
Clarke said it was unfortunate for the young people of the community because "we kind of got away from that for a whole lot of different reasons."
But with a fresh coat of paint, new ceilings, and some new basketball hoops on their way, the kids in this Strawberry Mansion community will now have place of their own to go.
After all, Clarke says, it's all about the community.
"With the support of the community, because at the end of the day, I'm standing here getting accolades - 'oh, Councilman Clarke,' - look, I had a bunch of people putting their foot you know where saying you better get this done," Clarke said.
Clarke says he feels extremely fortunate for a guy from the neighborhood to get to become council president. But he knows he's there for a reason.
"You're there to make sure that the people that you represent, the people that are in this city, have an opportunity. The young people have a chance in life. The young people get the proper guidance in life to make sure that one day they can be standing here being council president or state representative," Clarke said.
He calls the PAL Center special and emotional because of the location.
He recalled back in 2013, the Philadelphia School District announced they would be closing a number of schools. While the community was able to speak up and save Strawberry Mansion High School, LP Hill School could not be saved.
But now, years later, they are able to turn the gym at the former school into a new place for kids, complete with a basketball court funded by The Sixers Foundation.
Clarke joked he would like a key to the PAL Center so he could come back at night when nobody is watching and practice his jump shots.
"Until I get my skills back," Clarke said with a laugh.
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