Soaking up summer in the River Wards

‘Summer in the Neighborhood’ informs parents, children about events in the area

Summer fun: Jason Panas, 13, created his own Playdough alongside the Get HYPE Philly team during the Summer in the Neighborhood event in Powers Park in Port Richmond on Thursday, June 29.

By Lindsey Nolen

Summer is officially here, and with it comes a variety of events and activities spanning across the River Wards now through early September. Helping provide community members with the resources they need to identify and pursue these happenings, a “Summer in the Neighborhood: Discover Local Activities for Kids and Teens” event was held on Thursday, June 29 from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. to relay to neighbors, including parents and children, what there is to do around them this season.
Located at Powers Park in Port Richmond, located at 2965 Almond St., the event was presented by the City of Philadelphia Office of Youth Engagement (formerly the Philadelphia Youth Commission) and Motivos Bilingual Magazine. It’s purpose was to connect community members with resources they made need, as well as to allot a time for them to get to know other nearby residents. Additionally, since the farmers market was set up in the park at the same time, guests were encouraged to bring a picnic blanket to further enjoy the afternoon.
“NKCDC [organized] the event with Philadelphia’s Division of Housing the Community Development (formerly OHCD), as part of our commitment to provide quarterly Service Area Briefings, connecting residents with city resources,” Renee Horst, a community engagement associate with the NKCDC, said. “The afternoon also serves as a way to provide city agencies, community groups and youth programs across the Port Richmond, Kensington, and Fishtown neighborhoods with an in-person opportunity to meet residents, educate, and promote their programs.”
Also in attendance were representatives from the Coalition Against Hunger, Philadelphia Parks & Rec, HYPE, Motivos and Maker Jawn. These organizations set up tables to help inform the community about the resources they offer, while many of them offered games, activities and treats.
Included in the messages being presented by the outdoor, family-oriented display, staff from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health sought to use the opportunity to express the dangers presented by possible sources of lead in the home. They taught that painted surfaces, soft metal objects, food containers, “homemade” items, water in pipes and smoking products all present the potential to contain lead.
“We’re here to raise awareness of childhood lead poisoning in the 19134 area,” Elisa Tavella, a community liaison with the Department of Public Health, said. “Lead poisoning has a permanent, lasting effect on children. Preventing lead poisoning is our goal.”
Members of the Block Church, located at 2619 E. Indiana Ave., were voicing their stance as a “Spirit-led, Gospel-centered community, seeking a move of God.” Member Rowanna Keener said their purpose in attending the event on the church’s behalf was to connect with families in the neighborhood, letting them know there’s always a place for them at the church.
“We have a lot of great children’s programs,” Keener said. “Through them, kids can connect and have good examples and work to build a stronger community.”
Ricardo Calderón, director of Philadelphia Youth Commission at Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement within the City of Philadelphia, was present at the “Summer in the Neighborhood” event to promote keeping children active and healthy during their time off from school.
“One of [the Office of Public Engagement’s] initiatives is ‘Fun Safe Philly Summer,’ aiming to keep children and young people in our city safe and engaged during the summer months. We do that in a number of ways,” Calderón said. “We come out to community events such as this one, do tabling events and providing resources to families.”
He added the Office of Public Engagement also runs a Play Street book club through “Fun Safe Philly Summer.” Through this additional initiative, it partners with Parks and Recreation and Team First Book and conduct reading assessments, then giving each child a bundle of five books free of cost and a book of resources.
“We’re out here today because we want to engage with the neighborhood and the community,” Calderón said. “We know how important this is during the summertime where we have that summer slot where kids are not being engaged [through school]. We just want to do our part to help out.”
Keeping children engaged during the afternoon festivities, two representatives from Motivos bilingual magazine were offering attendees the chance to create a make-n-take flower project. Simultaneously, across the park members of the Get HYPE Philly program were helping children create homemade Playdough, giving them a list of materials they would need and a set of directions. As a bonus, they let the children use a myriad of ingredients to turn the Playdough to a color of their liking (i.e. turmeric makes yellow paint).
“It’s important to encourage self-expression,” Jenée Chizick Agüero, founder of Motivos, said. “Being here today allows us to do that, and helps connect us with others through outreach.”
All-in-all, attendees of the “Summer in the Neighborhood” event were able to enjoy themselves and participate in crafts, while learning more about what their community truly has to offer them.

For a full list of resources offered through the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement, visit beta.phila.gov/programs-initiatives/.