Members of PhillyRising organized a cleanup with other groups to beautify the Kingsessing area of Southwest Philadelphia on Saturday.
The cleanup began at the Francis J. Myers Recreation Center at 58th and Kingsessing, where some 60 volunteers from across the city and parts of New Jersey grabbed brooms, trash bags, gloves and other cleaning supplies and set to work picking up trash and cleaning lots in the area.
“We’re going to go out and clean Francis Myers and surrounding areas,” said PhillyRising's Bennie Ruth. “PhillyRising uses Myers Recreation Center for different meetings as well as to attend the meetings of other community groups as well.”
Ruth said the cleanup was done in advance of the group’s Nov.20 kickoff at Shaw Middle School at 54th and Warrington Avenue, which will officially begin its work in the Southwest area of the city.
“Today we’re bringing the resources out that will help jumpstart the cleaning of Kingsessing and hopefully motivate the residents and organizations to build capacity and do such cleaning up themselves,” Ruth said.
Cleanups of this kind not only have the obvious benefit of improving the appearance of the neighborhoods in which they are conducted but also, according to Ruth, may have less apparent benefits as well.
“People on the street doing good things helps keep crime down,” he said, adding that criminals do not like seeing people active in the community. “The more we are out doing good things, keeping the area clean and keeping young people active and everyone doing their civic duties, the better the community will be.”
Engaging local residents, groups and organizations is a key goal of PhillyRising, said Ruth and a local auto club, Philly Dream Chasers Auto Club, who responded to Ruth’s call for help during the cleanup.
“We’re here to help make the community better. Everyone is out here trying to participate and clean up the neighborhood,” said Unique Love of Philly Dreamchasers, which celebrates its first anniversary in December.
According to Love, the Dreamchasers have participated in numerous community improvement efforts throughout the city, and the Community Day cleanup was just one more way to help.
“We’re just trying to help out the community a little bit,” Love said.
While members of the Southwest Philadelphia community were present during the cleanup, the effort was largely carried out by those living outside the area such as the members of the Philadelphia Catholic League Alumni Corps, who arrived at the recreation center with dozens of its members.
“Doing some work with PhillyRising seemed like a great opportunity to help out the community and do some direct beautification of the neighborhood,” said the group’s founder and president Gavin Keiran, who traveled from the Northeast section of the city to join the cleanup effort.
The lack of community involvement of local residents has been a longtime concern of groups such as the Southwest Community Advisory Group.
“We’re out here trying to clean up Francis Myers, but we need more people out here, people who live in the community,” said Eugene Sherlock, organizer and resident of the Southwest area. “We shouldn’t have to have people outside the community come in and clean up where we live. We need more community input.”
Bringing people together from different areas of the city is one of the key objectives of PhillyRising, according Rich Negrin, the city’s deputy mayor and managing director.
“This is a core function which PhillyRising does, it brings people and stakeholders together from across the city to make all of our neighborhoods a better place,” said Negrin during the cleanup. “It’s about quality of life; it’s about building organic growth inside of the neighborhood.”
Negrin said seeing people actively care for the community will help to create a momentum in which local residents might begin to participate in the care of their neighborhoods themselves.
For more information about PhillyRising Southwest region activities, contact Bennie Ruth at (215) 686-8410.