A rebirth for their turf

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Growing up on the 1300 block of Tasker Street and the 1100 block of Dickinson Street, respectively, cousins Cliff Brown and Lavar Oliver loved heading to the DiSilvestro Recreation Center, 1500 Morris St., to shoot hoops. They came to enjoy recalling their endeavors when having their own children venture to the site to test their basketball skills, but their affinity for reflecting on and adding to the great moments in their lives went into athletic dormancy two years ago when the Point Breeze facility, as part of a partnership between the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia, shut down in anticipation of a new and improved haven.

“Even though we knew the powers that be would give us something amazing, we were still sad about not being able to come here,” Brown, now of the 2000 block of Wharton Street, said Monday as he and his kinsman made their final summer trip to the enhanced slice of heaven, which opened July 5. “Try as I might, I’ll forever be impatient when I’m anticipating something good.”

He and Oliver, of the 1400 block of South 17th Street, came to the location for a late afternoon opportunity to explore its inviting components, including a full and a half basketball court and vibrant playground equipment, including slides, swings, ropes, and bucket seats for those with sturdy stomachs. They and their four combined children flocked to the space its first day and made “at least 50 trips” there as the season progressed, according to Oliver.

Their ability to rekindle their passion for the expanse owes a debt of gratitude to the aforementioned medical titan and the local government, whose combined commitment to bettering the lives of locals yielded the South Philadelphia Community Health and Literacy Center, with DiSilvestro joining with the South Philadelphia Branch and the city’s Health Center 2, both 1700 S. Broad St., to offer wonderful amenities.

“It’s a fresh start for the people who had been accustomed to the original site and definitely one for me,” supervisor Steve Jacobs said Tuesday as a small group enjoyed a temperate morning. “I’m looking forward to having the rest of this year unfold because I’m eager to meet a ton of people.”

The resident of East Moyamensing Avenue and Dickinson Street came to the center following his second stint at Capitolo Playground, 900 Federal St. Having sought a transfer for a chance at overseeing the novelty, he said that June proved pivotal to the process, and he, like Brown, Oliver, and their offspring, had a thrilling summer.

“How often do people have opportunities to go to completely new buildings?” the Pennsport inhabitant inquired, flashing a thankful smile for the chance. “That start-from-scratch mentality was very inviting to me, and it’s been great to consider and subsequently implement programming that’s going to make a difference in people’s lives.”

THE 26-YEAR-OLD TEMPLE University alumnus and his peers at the health center and the library play an immense role in ensuring the success of the overall brainchild, which totals 96,000 square feet and cost $45.2 million. The community health and literacy center opened May 9, with the library following June 11. One might say, then, that with its post-Independence Day debut, overseers saved the best for last in making DiSilvestro the final element to dawn.

“I had just become pregnant when the old site closed,” Becca Hromisin said as son Joshua drank from a water fountain and started to run toward the rain garden. “I used to come here all the time before that when my husband and I first started pondering having a child. When I learned about the timeline for the new center, I had two great arrivals to expect, and both have been such blessings.”

The resident of the 1200 block of Mifflin Street loves that the new incarnation will likewise be as eager to motivate and cultivate young minds as its predecessor, particularly when the weather grows too daunting for outside activity. Jacobs has already cemented relationships with tennis and yoga offerers and has made connections with the St. Thomas Aquinas Mission School, 18th and Morris streets, and G.W. Childs School, 1599 Wharton St.

“There have just been so many positives so far,” the supervisor said, particularly happy about his connections with his superiors and the interest in establishing an advisory council. “It’s a wonderful community that waited a long time for this to be operational, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to be a part of their connecting or reconnecting with DiSilvestro.” SPR

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com. Comment at southphillyreview.com/sports/features.

Following two stints at Capitolo Playground, Pennsport resident Steve Jacobs loves being the supervisor at this recently rebuilt recreational facility.

photos by Tina Garceau