Improvements coming to Vare and Childs

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By Bill Gelman

2nd District City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson presented a grant for $100,000 toward a new state-of-the-art play space at George W. Childs Elementary School. Photo by Matthew SUIB/NICE

Some positive news has come out of last week’s community meeting concerning the future of Vare Recreation Center, 2600 Morris St. The “indefinite” timeline mentioned in last week’s cover story (“Vare Recreation Center is closed, for now”) now seems to have a six-week window for work to be completed on the first floor of the building. The news comes out of 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s office. He will be contributing $150,000 in capital improvement funds, which he said is a workaround solution developed in partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. Johnson added the second floor will remain closed indefinitely until a complete overhaul of the building is financially feasible.

While residents wait for the work at Vare to be completed, Universal Companies has agreed to open the two gyms inside of Universal Vare Charter, 2100 S. 24th St., from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at no cost for basketball and recreation use.

“I understand that Vare Recreation Center is a critically important safe haven for kids in the neighborhood, and Parks and Recreation understands that too. We’ve committed to finding solutions to minimize the impact of Vare Rec Center’s closing on the community,“ Johnson said. …

The councilman’s busy week also included a Thursday afternoon visit to George W. Childs Elementary School, 1599 Wharton St., where he met with School District officials and leaders from Neighbors Investing in Childs El- ementary (NICE) to present a grant for $100,000 toward a new state-of-the-art play space on the school’s rooftop. The play space will be the result of NICE’s “Project Recess,” a multi-year initiative to involve students, teachers and community members in the conception and design of the reimagined rooftop. John- son attended the Point Breeze-based school during his childhood.

Last year, NICE and nonprofit consulting firm The Big Sandbox began a community engagement initiative in Point Breeze with Iowa State University College of Design. Students from the university’s landscape architecture program met with Childs students and community members to learn about their hopes and needs for the ideal play space. Under the direction of Professor Bambi Yost, the Iowa State students used that input to create big-picture renderings of the rooftop play space. The renderings will serve as a guide for the final design. The grant was appropriated through the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative and will be received by The Fund for the Philadelphia School District, which will man- age the project’s finances on behalf of NICE. Phase two of Project Recess will consider the potential of the school’s ground-level yard and entranceway, so the children of Childs will have two outdoor places in which to play and learn.

“G.W. Childs is a rising school with

smart, dedicated young people who have so much to offer their community and the world,” Childs Principal Dr. Eileen Coutts said. “Childs alumni like Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and Representative Jordan Harris make us proud of the teaching and learning that goes on here every day. We know that physical activity and the arts are key factors in early childhood development, but the rooftop will be that much more special because the children are in-volved in the planning.” …

Last year, NICE and nonprofit con- sulting firm The Big Sandbox began a community engagement initiative in Point Breeze with Iowa State Univer- sity College of Design. Students from the university’s landscape architecture program met with Childs students and community members to learn about

Speaking of Childs, Stanton Community Partners, Neighbors Investing in Childs, and Friends of Chester Arthur are hosting a meet and greet for neighborhood parents to learn more about the local public schools tonight (Nov. 1) from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Lilypad, 1234 S. Broad St. Representatives from each of the three schools will be in attendance. Beer, wine, and light snacks are being provided by the Goldenberg Group. For more information, visit facebook.com/events/632851130436644. …

Neumann-Goretti High School is hosting a blood drive for the Red Cross on Tuesday (Nov. 7) from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the school cafeteria, 1736 S. 10th St. If the school reaches 200 pints of blood donated, the Red Cross will donate a $3,000 scholarship to a student in the school. For more information, including to schedule an appointment, visit neumanngorettihs.org/blood-drive. …

The South Philadelphia Lions Club has been a presence in the South Philadelphia community for 82 years, with their main focus being on the blind, visually impaired and hearing impaired. The organization relies on generous donations to fulfill their “We Serve” motto, with Friday (Nov. 3) night’s major fundraiser at the Waterfall Room, 2015 S. Water St., being one of those special occasions. “A Cozy Night with Chris — Tribute to Cozy Morley and Old School Comedy” will take place from 9 to 11 p.m. There will be a cocktail hour from 7 to 8 p.m. and buffett from 8 to 9 p.m. Tickets are no longer available, with a sell-out crowd of 200 people expected. …

St. Monica’s Craft- Vendor Fair will be held in the school gymnasium, 16th and Shunk streets, on Nov. 11 from 4 to 7 p.m. Admission is free. Raffle tickets for prize items are $5 per sheet. Food and refreshments will be available for purchase. For more information, call 609–970–5492. …

The Donut Men are coming. Sure, it may sound like a silly name, but the free concert, which is taking place on Nov.11, is described as a wonderful blend of Bible songs, stories and audience participation. Light breakfast and snacks will be provided at the City Church of Philadelphia, 2311 S. 13th St. Concert begins at 10:30 a.m. On Nov. 12, the site is hosting a Kids Under Construction Program in which children learn, play and develop godly character. A free breakfast will be served. Call 215–334–7440.

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