by Alex Sanyal and Sara Reckahn
The Towey Recreation Center, also known as the Towey Playground, was bustling on Thursday night as community members gathered for the second of a series of neighborhood dinners to discuss new programs and volunteer opportunities for the upcoming year.
Evelina Bodón of the Towey Advisory Council and Executive Director of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance, George Matysik, opened the evening with a request to sign a funding petition for redevelopment of the beloved center. Matysik introduced David Ganley, the recreation leader on site at Towey, who then handed out a program schedule for the following months.
Throughout the course of the evening, the community members who call Towey home vocalized their questions and concerns about the future of the center. A major area of concern was the time allotted to each of the activities and the frequency of overbookings. Andrew Espinosa and other members spoke about problems with Towey’s previously established basketball leagues that did not receive enough open court time for pick-up games due to overbookings. Several women also shared that flag football was only given 30 minutes which is not enough time to sustain a good game for the kids.
The community was eager to see more group activities in the center, suggesting a Halloween and Christmas party. An older member, Mary Farrell, reminisced about going to dances at Towey frequently as a little girl and wanted to see more of those entertainment events back at the center for the “newer generations.” Farrell was also eager to volunteer for gardening and art classes to help get Towey back on its feet.
In terms of new activities for the center, the community said they are eager to see more programs like gardening, arts, specifically drawing and painting, and even some fabric work and sewing classes. They also want to see more tutoring as part of the after school program, as well as intergenerational activities to help create a strong community at Towey for people of all ages.
This process of implementation consists of summer and fall arts programs for kids led by Art Sphere, a Philadelphia-based, non-profit, established to teach art to low-income, inner-city youth. Kristin Groenveld, an Art Sphere representative, said the organization’s work consists of painting and cleaning up Towey, fixing the kiln and working with volunteers to bring in art supplies for kids to take home in shoe boxes.
A few members expressed how they come to Towey to relax and de-stress. One older man shared that he feels inundated by negative messages on social media and would like to see positive messages and inspiring quotes spread around the center. Groenveld affirmed that Art Sphere would like to honor that idea with special art programming that caters directly to the community’s needs.
Matysik then introduced Mrs. Ana Bodón, head of the Advisory Council, and encouraged everyone to attend her next meeting in hopes of growing the council in the future. The conversation then shifted to bricks and mortar and he asked which building improvements people wanted to see. Many people wanted to see a garden and one woman offered to bring a compost bin to install outside of the building. According to the community members, the center could also benefit from landscape redesign in the immediate surrounding area, such as weeding and general maintenance.
As the meeting came to a close, community members were offered flyers to learn more about volunteering for Parks & Recreation and the Renter’s Union, as well as had the option to sign up for the Towey basketball league and complete voter registration. Overall, the meeting was a success and the Parks Alliance is excited to work with the Towey center in the future. They look forward to hosting more neighborhood dinners and kick-starting the renovation process in order to bring the community the changes they want to see in their communal space.
If you live near Towey Recreation Center and would like to get involved or have questions about its current programming, please contact Recreation Leader David Ganley at (215) 685 – 9892.