Rec Center Reopening Has Impact on North Philadelphia Community

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- On 15th and York Streets in North Philadelphia, the community is rediscovering Winchester Park.

The rec center had been vacant for the past five years, after being unstaffed under the previous city administration. The community leaders who pushed for the project said it is vital to the neighborhood's survival.

"People are too busy trying to survive to figure out how to reimagine our community," said Tinamarie Russell, who heads the North Central Philadelphia Community Development Center.

"We wanted to know why the rec center was closed and how we could get it reopened," she said.

Russell and other community leaders started circulating a petition and got hundreds of signatures. That's when the city's parks and recreation department got involved.

"We know our spaces are vital community spaces to keep children safe and engaged in positive programming," said Orlando Rendon, the deputy commissioner of the department.

Parks and Rec poured nearly $100,000 into the building to make repairs. Over the summer, a new staff came on board and the center reopened.

"Nowadays in the society we live in, that's not something you see a lot of. You see kids growing up too fast, doing stuff they're not supposed to do. When you come here, you get to be a kid like you're supposed to be," said Quaeasha Turner, a teenager in the neighborhood who now volunteers with the center's after-school program.

The vision for the building doesn't stop there, however. Russell says she sees it being a meeting place for community groups, a classroom for adults to learn new skills, and a haven for the neighborhood.

"It's going to enhance our ability to become strong again, not just hear each other, but see each other too," she said.
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