SERVE Philadelphia

Philadelphia is in the process of concentrating volunteer efforts in an attempt to help alleviate the most pressing needs of our communities and schools.

The new effort, christened SERVE Philadelphia, is funded by a two-year grant from The Rockefeller Foundation, which awarded the winners of the first round of Cities of Service Leadership Grants.

Cities of Service was founded in 2009 by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomburg, in an attempt to unite numerous cities to expand community service and volunteerism. The three main goals of Cities of Service are to identify priorities and use volunteers to target a community’s biggest needs, to use good practices in order to maximize the program’s results and to set clear goals to gauge progress.

Mayor Michael Nutter is determined to do just this. According to Mayor Nutter’s blueprint, there are three major goals to target some of Philadelphia’s most critical needs—needs that were identified by engaging diverse groups of policy experts, schools, non-profit organizations, public agencies and citizens. SERVE Philadelphia aims to create or elevate volunteer opportunities that impact educational outcomes and contribute to community vitality, to “make it easier for citizens of every age to volunteer,” and to “support both public and private sector efforts to engage more volunteers in ways that have the greatest impact.

Mayor Michael Nutter believes there is a wealth of untapped volunteer energy in the city, and a major outreach could help convince people to share their time.

SERVE Philadelphia’s five impact initiatives include:

(1) Graduation Coach Campaign, which calls on mentors to promise to help the young people in their lives earn a high school diploma and succeed in college and careers;

(2) College Access Writing Clinics, which will involve college student volunteers in tutoring high school students at citywide writing clinics each month, as well as regularly scheduled clinics;

(3) Public Service Areas, which will increase the capability of community groups to rejuvenate their neighborhoods by teaming city agencies with both non-profit and for-profit entities who will work with local residents to develop partnerships, leverage resources and manage volunteers;

(4) Volunteer Afterschool, which recruits and prepares volunteers to provide engaging afterschool activities in libraries and rec centers that do not have an appropriate amount of volunteers;

(5) Green Philly, Grow Philly, in which volunteers will be recruited to support Philly Parks & Recreation’s plan to achieve the goal of planting 300,000 trees across the city by 2015.

When the plan was unveiled in September, Mayor Nutter powerfully and eloquently described the ethos of Philadelphia in his ‘Message from the Mayor’ on SERVE Philadelphia’s website.

“As Philadelphians,” he said, “we have always been committed to helping our fellow citizens. I am deeply proud of the ethic of service that permeates our city. Whether it’s our network of 6,000 block captains dedicated to supporting their communities, the outpouring of volunteers for Philly’s Annual Spring Clean-Up, the generosity of City government employees who tutor children on their lunch hour, or the thousands of citizens who volunteer regularly in support of issues they care about, Philadelphians have always found meaningful ways to help one another.”

SERVE Philadelphia is the city’s most concentrated effort to engage volunteers, and it certainly appears that the next few years will bring on a safer, greener and more educated city.

For upcoming volunteer opportunities, visit SERVE Philadelphia’s website.

You can contact Stephanie Zrebiec at szrebi01@villanova.edu.

Photo: © http://www.phila.gov/mayor/

Making a Splash in Philadelphia

There’s nothing more quintessentially summer than a day spent lounging by the pool, splashing around and cooling off. In a city like Philadelphia, where open space is limited–but not as limited as the budget–it can be a challenge to find the perfect grotto.

Private swim clubs in and around Center City can be pricey, but if you’re willing to make a slight trip, there are several pools just outside the city that are sure to fulfill your aqua itch. Penbryn Park is located at Edgerton and Houston Avenues in Jenkintown, and boasts a large pool complex. This park is accessible via SEPTA Landsdale/Doylestown or WarminsterRegional Rail lines.

Crestmont Park also offers an outdoor pool. It is located in Willow Grove (Old Welsh Rd. and Reservoir Ave.) and is served by the SEPTA Warminsterline.

Check out the Abington Township Parks and Recreationwebsite for information on memberships or daily passes for these and other public pools in the greater Philadelphia region.

Neshaminy State Parkpools are open from Memorial Day to Labor day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends and holidays. This state park is a woodland oasis and a great place to hike, explore or swim during the summer months.

If you’re just in the mood for a quick cool-down, rather than an all-out swim, check out one of Philadelphia’s spraygrounds. There are four locations: Waterview Recreation Center (Rittenhouse and McMahon Streets), Smith Playground (2100 S. 24th Street), Ferko Playground (J & Cayuga) and at 48th & Woodland. These unique man-made geysers and fountains soak children and adults alike with cool water from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Swimming isn’t all about play; it’s also a great cardio exercise. There are lots of pools in the city dedicated to lap swimming. Many Philadelphia Universities have pools, such as Sheerr Pool at the University of Pennsylvania or Pearson Pool at Temple University.

The Philadelphia and Vicinity YMCA is another great resource for all your aquatic fitness needs. They offer swimming lessons for all levels, water safety certifications and courses and group fitness classes, along with lap swim. Check their list of branchesto find a facility near you.

If you’re looking to splurge, many private gyms in Philly also offer fitness pools such as The Aquatic & Fitness Center. Philadelphia Sports Clubs also has some indoor and outdoor aquatics facilities. Check out their 30 days for 30 dollarsdeal (although this limited membership excludes the outdoor pool facility).

Although it takes some searching, the relief of a relaxing day at the pool will make your quest well worth it. Whether you swim for recreation or fitness, be sure to obey the rules of the pool and you’ll be sure to stay cool.

Photos: Pool with inner tube: zlaiykalovestaylorswift.blogspot.com, Diver: lehi-ut.gov

Philly Roller Derby

The crowd cheers and she passes her opponents, throwing a few of them off-balance in the process. She is ferocious and intensely focused on taking her team to a win. By day she works an office job, and by night she is a member of the Philly Roller Girls.

Fans of the movie Whip Itare no strangers to roller derby teams across the country. This intense roller-skating sport takes a bit of skill, competition and a lot of lack of fear of taking down one’s opponents.

Although the sport has its roots in America, it features sections in 20 different countries including Denmark, Canada and Germany. Roller derby has had three of its own teams in Philly since 2005- the Broad Street Butchers, Heavy Metal Hookers and Philthy Britches. Philly also has its own travel team, the Liberty Belles, which is currently ranked second in the WFTDA’sEastern Division.

For those less schooled in this sport, it has its roots back to the 1880’s. Although the sport is currently predominately female, many co-ed teams do exist throughout the world. A roller derby game takes place on an oval roller skating rink as two teams compete against each other.

Points are scored on the team when a designated jammer on the opposing teams laps some of the other members. Pivots, or the leaders of the team, set the pace that the other members will skate at. “Blockers” keep the team consistent and keep the opposing jammer from scoring, while giving their own jammer a chance.

The roller derby teams are well trained, but it is not for the weak of heart as some risks are still prevalent. As it is a contact sport and shoving the opposing roller skaters is a part of the game, injuries do often occur.

The sport takes a lot more than a competitive spirit, however. The Philly league’s fourth season features over 50 skaters, dozens of referees and many volunteers to make the games happen. A Philly Roller Girl’s dedication is also important to the sport- as many are working full-time jobs and raising families, in addition to participating.

If you encompass a sense of fearlessness and think becoming a Philly Roller Girl is for you, you’re in luck. If you’re 21 and older and would like to have a good time while making friends and getting some exercise, the teams are accepting new members. Beginning skaters, or fresh meat, must attend seven practices in their first month, so be sure you have the time to contribute. For more information, go here .

Many colleges students also have joined or created their own teams, including a recently developed team, although unaffiliated with any school, consisting mostly of Temple University students and coached by members of the Philadelphia Roller Girls. Philadelphia Roller Girls is also frequently recruiting volunteersto help out at the games.

Whether you would like to join the team yourself, or just remain as a spectator, be sure to check out Philly Roller Girls next game on May 7th at the Class of 1923 Arena(3130 Walnut St.).

You can contact Danielle Miess at danielle.miess@temple.edu

Photo: http://s3.amazonaws.com/bonanzleimages and phillyrollergirls.com

Tony Luke’s

If you go to school or live in the Philadelphia area, you will inevitably be hit with one undying question: Pat’s or Geno’s?”

Even if you’re not native to the area, this prompt gets tiring after a while. Answering it the wrong way may actually spark a heated debate over where to find the “best cheesesteak in Philly.” Though finding the city’s best cheesesteak may seem like an impossible endeavor, Tony Luke’s is a good place to start.

When the Philly cheesesteak gets brought up in a debate, the first attack by the opposing side is usually about taste. While each shop has its strengths and weaknesses, everything about a Tony Luke’s cheesesteak seems to be a level above the rest.

Tony Luke’s uses 100% rib-eye steak—which is not only tastier than regular steak, but has less gristle. It’s also less greasy than a cheesesteak from Pat’s or Geno’s. The bread is freshly baked, so there’s no need to worry about taking a huge bite into a stale roll; it’s always crisp and warm. All these factors combine to make a delicious cheesesteak that will not disappoint.

Tony Luke’s menu is exponentially bigger than Pat’s or Geno’s. At more well-known spots, you’re usually limited to a “Whiz wit” or a “Whiz witout.” Tony Luke’s, however, has a menu that more resembles that of an Italian restaurant. Though it’s certainly famous for its delectable cheesesteak, it may be better known for its roast pork with broccoli rabe sandwich. In addition, Tony Luke’s offers a wide variety of sliced roast beef, veal cutlet, chicken cutlet, chicken cheesesteaks, cold hoagies and hot dogs.

There is also a wide array of breakfast sandwiches, consisting of combinations of pork roll, bacon, eggs or potatoes. But, don’t forget the side dishes! While Pat’s and Geno’s only offer fries, Tony Luke’s has regular and curly fries, mozzarella sticks, onion rings and chicken fingers. It also offers sides of sauteed vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli rabe, mushrooms and sweet peppers.

To top it all off, the prices for sandwiches (about $7.50) and sides ($2-4) are extremely reasonable. This being said, it can take quite a while to receive your order during a busy period, like lunchtime or before a game. If you come during one of these times, be prepared to stand in line for up to 20 minutes, and to wait another 20 minutes for your order.

Why the wait? Tony Luke’s has a wider variety of meal options and cooks everything to order. While Pat’s and Geno’s still have the upper hand in speed, Tony Luke’s is, overall, the better experience.

If you’re looking for a great cheesesteak without the flock of tourists and the Las Vegas neon lights, Tony Luke’s is your best bet.

Fun Fact: Tony Luke’s was featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food.” The challenge consisted of eating a 5-pound cheesesteak; that equates to 6 regular cheesesteaks!

You can contact Stephanie Zrebiec at szrebi01@villanova.edu.

Photo: © http://www.tonylukes.com/

Tony Luke’s

If you go to school or live in the Philadelphia area, you will inevitably be hit with one undying question: Pat’s or Geno’s?”

Even if you’re not native to the area, this prompt gets tiring after a while. Answering it the wrong way may actually spark a heated debate over where to find the “best cheesesteak in Philly.” Though finding the city’s best cheesesteak may seem like an impossible endeavor, Tony Luke’sis a good place to start.

When the Philly cheesesteak gets brought up in a debate, the first attack by the opposing side is usually about taste. While each shop has its strengths and weaknesses, everything about a Tony Luke’s cheesesteak seems to be a level above the rest.

Tony Luke’s uses 100% rib-eye steak—which is not only tastier than regular steak, but has less gristle. It’s also less greasy than a cheesesteak from Pat’s or Geno’s. The bread is freshly baked, so there’s no need to worry about taking a huge bite into a stale roll; it’s always crisp and warm. All these factors combine to make a delicious cheesesteak that will not disappoint.

Tony Luke’s menu is exponentially bigger than Pat’s or Geno’s. At more well-known spots, you’re usually limited to a “Whiz wit” or a “Whiz witout.” Tony Luke’s, however, has a menu that more resembles that of an Italian restaurant. Though it’s certainly famous for its delectable cheesesteak, it may be better known for its roast pork with broccoli rabe sandwich. In addition, Tony Luke’s offers a wide variety of sliced roast beef, veal cutlet, chicken cutlet, chicken cheesesteaks, cold hoagies and hot dogs.

There is also a wide array of breakfast sandwiches, consisting of combinations of pork roll, bacon, eggs or potatoes. But, don’t forget the side dishes! While Pat’s and Geno’s only offer fries, Tony Luke’s has regular andcurly fries, mozzarella sticks, onion rings and chicken fingers. It also offers sides of sauteed vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli rabe, mushrooms and sweet peppers.

To top it all off, the prices for sandwiches (about $7.50) and sides ($2-4) are extremely reasonable. This being said, it can take quite a while to receive your order during a busy period, like lunchtime or before a game. If you come during one of these times, be prepared to stand in line for up to 20 minutes, and to wait another 20 minutes for your order.

Why the wait? Tony Luke’s has a wider variety of meal options and cooks everything to order. While Pat’s and Geno’s still have the upper hand in speed, Tony Luke’s is, overall, the better experience.

If you’re looking for a great cheesesteak without the flock of tourists and the Las Vegas neon lights, Tony Luke’s is your best bet.

Fun Fact: Tony Luke’s was featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food.” The challenge consisted of eating a 5-pound cheesesteak; that equates to 6 regular cheesesteaks!

You can contact Stephanie Zrebiec at szrebi01@villanova.edu.

Photo:

Finding the Magic in Magic Gardens

When you first hear the name “Magic Gardens,” it’s hard not to conjure up images of Alice in Wonderland-like flowers and bizarre plants.

Though creator Isaiah Zagar’s work in his Philadelphia Magic Gardens (1020 South St.) may certainly be described as unique (and you do get a little of the Alice in Wonderland vibe once inside), the gardens are an important part of Philadelphia’s history, as well as an amazing piece of local art.

Zagar is an award-winning mosaic mural artist, whose art can be found on over 100 public walls throughout Philadelphia and around the world. Zagar was born in Philly and raised in Brooklyn. As a teenager, he became inspired by the folk art instillations of Clarence Schmidt in Woodstock, New York.

Zagar’s work is greatly influenced by untrained artists that created “fine art,” such as Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet, Simon Rodia and Joseph Ferdinand Cheval.

Zagar and his wife joined the Peace Corps in the mid 60s, and he soon became influenced by the folk artists he met along his travels. After returning to Philadelphia, he embarked upon his lifelong goal to create public artwork that fosters community creativity.

Zagar has had works included in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. In addition, Zagar has been recognized in several films and publications, most notably in a 2008 documentary entirely about him, In A Dream, which was created by his son Jeremiah.

Though Zagar and his wife have been beautifying South Street since the 60s, he didn’t began working on the Magic Gardens until 1994. They can be viewed as a monument to the South Street Renaissance, a movement that hit Philadelphia in the late 60s and early 70s, in which local artists and musicians banded together to plant trees in defiance of a construction project. The renaissance saved the street, and ultimately, it created arts and entertainment venues that brought new life into the Philadelphia community.

Despite the fact that the vibrant building is one of the most recognizable on South Street, the Magic Gardens ironically remains more of a hidden gem than a “must-see” spot in Philadelphia. Its colorful walls are laden with mosaic art and captivate many pedestrians who happen to be walking around 9th, 10th or 11th streets.

To experience the full effect, however, one truly needs to enter the Magic Gardens. By simply looking at a small portion of the outside of the building, one would never guess that around the corner, there is an entire alley of mosaic facades. The Magic Gardens is over 3,000 square feet, and it’s composed of a house with an adjacent lot that has been tiled from floor to ceiling with Zagar’s art.

The outdoor lot is composed of pathways and tunnels that result in a maze of mosaics, eventually leading into the house. Its walls are absolutely covered in art that, at first glance, can only be described as eccentric. Up close, the art becomes even more interesting. In addition to vibrantly colorful mosaic tiles, there are stones, cups, bricks, old toys, glass bottles—even bicycle wheels and poetry—all representing the free-spirited art movement of the “flower-child” era.

Zagar hosts monthly workshops, where students can learn techniques for constructing mosaics. Though instruction is free, donations are greatly appreciated and go to the general upkeep of the Magic Gardens. You can visit this fantastic spot seven days a week—Sunday through Thursday, it’s open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday and Saturday it’s open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. During the summer, it is open until 6 p.m. on weekdays. For a guided tour of the Magic Gardens, it is $8 for adults; for a self-guided tour, it’s only $5!

Isaiah Zagar has transformed a potentially bleak urban environment into something special. His unique mosaic art re-invigorated South Street and has helped shape Philadelphia into a thriving creative environment. Pictures don’t do Magic Gardens justice. It’s truly an experience.

Whether you plan to make a trip of it, or are simply in the South Street area with an hour of time to kill, make sure you venture to Magic Gardens to witness Zagar’s creative genius firsthand.

You can contact Stephanie Zrebiec at szrebi01@villanova.edu.

Photo: © http://www.philadelphiasmagicgardens.org/

Helping to Guide Philly’s Future Stars

Growing up in Philadelphia can be difficult, but thanks to community centers like North Light Community Center(175 Green Ln.), kids have a safe haven to learn and play, and their parents have somewhere to turn to in times of need.

According to its website, North Light’s mission is “to promote the welfare of the community, including the social, educational and athletic development of the youth of the community.

Founded in 1936, the center has evolved from a drop-in center for boys to a multi-service center that offers employment services, emergency support and recreation programs. The staff’s main focus is to provide kids in the 21st wardof Philadelphia with alternatives to juvenile delinquency and crime. Many of the kids are from low income or single-parent households, so instead of coming home to an empty house after school, they can go to North Light for recreational and educational programs.

Its staff knows kids are valuable assets to the community, who need a positive environment to develop their talents, social skills and good attitudes. With many children in the area living in poverty, North Light provides positive self-direction for kids from the elementary to high school level. Not only does it help youths prepare for the working world, North Light helps them to develop strong leadership skills that can be retained throughout their lives.

One way the center tries to positively guide Philly’s youth is through its Youth Development program, which is focused on providing kids with opportunities for personal growth. Volunteers help the students hone strong social skills through the Youth Encouragement Program, the Philadelphia Youth Networkand the Student Environmental Development Program. Through North Light’s Neighborhood Access to Technology (NAT) Project, kids have access to a computer lab with volunteer staff helping to teach computer literacy.

Through private donors, North Light is able to hand out several scholarships to help support educational costs for local residents; one specific scholarship awards a four-year full tuition to a private high school student from a single-parent household.

In addition to fostering positive attitudes and education, North Light also has a variety of extracurricular activities that students can participate in. The North Light Players is the center’s theatre group, which stages several community theatre productions each year. There are also intramural and travel sports teams kids can participate in, and volunteers offer instructional lessons for some sports.

The center also aids families and adults. North Light helps people find jobs, with a job board updated weekly with recent job postings. The center also extends a helping hand to those in need through programs like the Community Food Cupboard. North Light also offers a grant program that helps to pay home utility bills. During the holidays, volunteer “Santa’s Helpers” aid in making the holiday’s brighter by donating gifts.

North Light’s existence depends on the generosity of volunteers, and there are an abundant amount of opportunities to get involved. Volunteers can donate their time on a one-time basis, or for an extended period. The center particularly needs volunteers to do outdoor work, like painting and sprucing up its facilities. It also needs tutors who are willing to allocate several hours a week to assist children with homework and studying.

Community centers like North Light play an integral role in the development of our city’s children, and thanks to the kindness and determination of volunteers, Philadelphia’s youth will be able to develop the skills necessary to be successful later in life.

To find out how you can make an impact on a student’s life, or for more information regarding volunteer and community service opportunities, click here.

You can contact Stephanie Zrebiec at szrebi01@villanova.edu.

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