Kensington resident coordinates with city to offer safe outside play options for neighborhood youth
By Lindsey Nolen
Amid the dangers that often present themselves growing up in a Kensington neighborhood, 29-year-old community member and father Manuel Sanchez wanted to find a way to help allow and encourage young children to be able to come outside and play together. Thus, tucked away at 1900 E. Silver St., he coordinated with the City of Philadelphia to organize just that, initiating the street as a site location for the Play Street for the Kids program.
Now in its second year at this location, this summer’s program launched on Tuesday, June 27 and will run from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. from Monday to Friday until Friday, Sept. 1, with operation based on the availability of the site supervisor. During these hours, the street is shut down to public use through a permit and Sanchez receives and distributes meals, completes required paperwork and closes and opens the street at designated times. He also monitors the participating children to ensure basic safety is met, although he said he is in need of more volunteers.
To make sure this program is fun for the neighborhood children, Sanchez works to organize activities during the days for the children to engage in, from face painting to water games to sports. He also incorporates arts and crafts and reading into the program’s weekly agenda. The City of Philadelphia aids in providing lunches for the children, as Philadelphia Parks & Recreation is a Food Program Sponsor, yet meals are federally funded through the USDA and PA Department of Education. Furthermore, other families and organizations have donated raffles for the parents, snacks and toys.
“I wanted to do something beautiful for the community and our children in the neighborhood,” Sanchez said. “Last year went great, we had like 30 kids around.”
Although this year only 20 to 25 kids came out to the East Silver Street location to experience the summer launch of the program, Sanchez anticipates that once more learn about it, they too will come out to join in. Thus, he has been busy spreading word of the program online, and simultaneously works to collect donations such as toys to enhance the children’s’ play experiences. Organized by Impact Services, toy dropoffs can be made at the location anytime between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., and the organization would also be happy to do some pickups.
“This is something I chose to do to help out these kids in the community,” Sanchez said. “Some of the families are low on income, and I wanted to do something for them while helping teach their children the right things and to stay positive.”
In achieving this, he believes elements of the program, such as reading to the children and showing them skills like how to crochet, will help them to grow and learn.
Jenny Garcia of Genesis Homecare was also in attendance at the program’s launch at East Silver Street to bring snacks and sweets for the kids. She expressed the reason for her presence stems from the need to help give back to the community and serve others.
“As a home care agency, we service anyone who has any physical or medical disability, as well as seniors,” Garcia said. “[The kids] have to have some sort of fun, and the neighborhood is not safe at all. Kids can’t even go to a playground, or walk out on the street.”
Parents gathering around to watch the children play were also in favor of the initiative being presented. Adriana Quintero said she brought her kids out because they live right down the block and it seemed like a great way to keep them entertained during the summer.
“This is fun for the kids and helps keep them active during the day,” Quintero said.