Police Athletic League honors Rabena


A member of a large family committed to caring for communities, Ronald Rabena sees his altruistic actions as products of his upbringing.

Accustomed to giving, the resident of the 3200 block of South 17th Street received a Police Athletic League Award May 8 for fostering positivity among city youngsters, including participants at Ford PAL, 631 Snyder Ave.

“I remain indebted to the overall organization for its role in molding me,” the 53-year-old Packer Park dweller and division president of national security operations for AlliedBarton Security Services said last week from his Center City office, just feet away from the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel, the site of the ceremony. “I’m happy, too, to promote its excellence by looking to make a difference in as many neighborhoods as possible in Philadelphia and beyond.”

Rabena, who initiated his interaction with his hometown’s 66-year-old PAL chapter as an 11-year-old attendee at its former Crisconi location, Broad and Jackson streets, learned of his commendation from board of directors chairwoman Sylvia Nisenbaum early this year. A 15-year board presence with extensive committee duties, he found the news surprising and humbling and conveyed that to his audience.

“Anybody familiar with me knows I don’t do anything for awards,” he said. “I’m active because we need to build up our children’s confidence and make investments in worthwhile futures.”

Standing before the crowd, he noted his pride in evolving from “a PAL kid” to “a PAL man.” He has enjoyed the transition because it provides daily reminders of lessons the system gave him as a boy.

“My first attraction to PAL was its emphasis on teamwork,” Rabena said, adding his childhood engagement in baseball and basketball has assisted his handling of more than 60,000 AlliedBarton workers. “Being from South Philly, too, I feel it has played a role in keeping me grounded and appreciating diversity. Because of those elements, I’m dedicated to helping it thrive.”

The humanitarian has shown his allegiance through three gigantic initiatives. Calling on colleagues within the Building Owners and Managers Association five years ago, he helped to establish April’s Cops Helping Kids Day, through which officers and children visit at least 20 high-rise buildings to generate funds from employees and occupants. This year’s $40,000 endowment upped the tally to $120,000, which along with the $970,000 he and his associates raised for PAL in conjunction with his commemoration have proven him a reliable financial benefactor.

He also has acted as an aesthetic enhancer by guiding upgrades to PAL centers, including the aforementioned spot, which has improved bathrooms, refurbished floors, fresh paint, a computer learning center and space for older adults to interact. He is striving to prepare teenagers for postsecondary education and employment through his newest brainchild, Best Foot Forward, which he would like to implement across the country, especially in the 44 states where AlliedBarton operates.

“It would be assistance applicable to any field,” he said of the application and interview tutelage. “I’m convinced it will be a home run.”

Hailing from the 3200 block of South Juniper Street, Rabena matured among relatives enamored with serving others, with his late father, Frank, helping to helm security in the early days of the since-demolished Spectrum, 3601 S. Broad St. Fresh off his instruction at Crisconi, Rabena, a graduate of Bishop Neumann High School, now Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., and Community College of Philadelphia, aligned himself with SpectaGuard as a security officer through the defunct arena and began his ascension through the company, which acquired then-Pittsburgh-based Allied Security in 2000 and then-Atlanta-centered Barton Protective Services four years later to arrive at its present name. No matter his title with the currently Conshohocken-headquartered entity, the largest American-owned security officer services company, he always has sought to bond with those who hold the welfare of children in high regard.

“I loved being part of the protection of people as they attended events,” he said of his former work within the sports complex. “In addition, I gained opportunities to interact with so many individuals whose ‘We serve’ mentality extended to the education of children.”

Through his advocacy, children as young as 6 have gained vital exposure to academic and athletic aids, with more to benefit as he plots his biannual plan to rehabilitate PAL locations.

“I still recall my days as a participant fondly, and I’m paying for them now,” Rabena said with a chuckle in acknowledgment of recent knee surgery. “Great things are coming out of South Philly, and we have to make sure our children are among them.”

In becoming a PAL Award designee, he joins a strong list of winners since the honor’s 1968 creation, including Flyers great Bobby Clarke, an ’82 recipient; Mayor Michael A. Nutter, a 2009 victor; and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., an ’11 commendee.

“There’s a ton of work to be done still,” Rabena, a member of the Packer Park Civic Association who Tuesday also picked up a merit award from the Philadelphia Crime Commission, on whose executive board he serves, said, applauding tireless motivation from his family, including Donna, his wife of 28 years, their 23-year-old daughter Amanda and 18-year-old son Ronald Jr. “South Philly has so much to offer, and I want to help to make it even more promising.”

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com or ext. 124.