NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

By signing up to our newsletter, you agree to our terms.

The Citizen Recommends: Make the World Better Fundraiser

The event, next week, helps fund Connor Barwin’s mission to fix Philly’s playgrounds

The event, next week, helps fund Connor Barwin’s mission to fix Philly’s playgrounds

“Parks,” former Eagles defensive lineman Connor Barwin has said, “are the center of a community, a place that can really bring people together. When I was growing up, the neighborhood playground was a sanctuary for me.”

It’s this—the idea of a neighborhood sanctuary—that is the ethos of Barwin’s Make the World Better Foundation (MTWB), a nonprofit in his (hopefully forever) adopted hometown that has already revived two neighborhood parks, Ralph Brooks and Smith in South Philly; is well into a complete overhaul of a third, West Kensington’s Waterloo; and has just kicked off a fourth, Vare Recreation Center in Grays Ferry.

Do Something

But MTWB—which merged with Jeffrey Tubbs’s Urban Roots last year—is about more than constructing playgrounds and basketball courts. It’s about constructing something much deeper and important: Community. Every park project begins with long and deep conversations with neighbors, about what they want and need—for children, parents, elderly and anyone else adjacent to the property. And in many of those conversations you’ll find Barwin himself, bending an ear to listen to concerns and hopes for a neighborhood center that can be a center of neighborhood life.

That’s how Ralph Brooks, at 20th and Tasker streets, became both basketball court and rain garden; Smith, eight acres at 24th and Snyder, got a kitchenette, a media lab, multi-sport fields and fitness areas; Waterloo, with a youth advisory group, got an incredible new mural for its basketball court, will soon have a renovated pool, picnic areas and gaming space.

“Parks,” former Eagles defensive lineman Connor Barwin has said, “are the center of a community, a place that can really bring people together. When I was growing up, the neighborhood playground was a sanctuary for me.”

For Vare, Barwin says, the intent is to be even more community-oriented, with what he calls “participatory design.”

“A lot of times the community  comes to a meeting with architects, who show them drawings, but the architect is in the power position,” he says. “We want to flip how it’s done.” Instead, MTWB plans to host workshops starting in the next couple weeks in which community members will present their thoughts and ideas to the designers before they begin their work. “That puts the community in the power position and designers have to take that in, and use that in their design.”

Read More

Vare, a $14 million project, is the first MTWB project that will be almost fully-funded by Rebuild, Mayor Kenney’s initiative—paid for by the soda tax—to renovate city parks. It is the biggest project for the nonprofit so far; Ralph Brooks, in comparison, was $750,000.

Custom Halo

Next week, MTWB holds the first of two fundraisers this summer to help pay for their work, staff and for several smaller projects besides the big park renovations, including another basketball court mural, public art and a program at Ralph Brooks. The first event, at the 76ers Training Complex in Camden, is being presented by HealthBridge Chiropractic, which has already helped MTWB raise $200,000 in the last four years. The party—for which The Citizen is a sponsor—will include games and free throw contests on the practice court, drinks, dinner and dessert. Barwin will be there, as will other special guests.  

Then, MTWB’s benefit concert will be held again in September, with headliners Future Islands, a Baltimore-based indie rock band. The last concert, with War on Drugs, raised $150,000.

Wednesday June 12, 6 pm-9 pm, $250 general admission, Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex, 55 Harbor Boulevard, Camden, NJ

Photo via Stacey Salter Moore - SSM Photography

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil posts. We want to be a communal space. But that doesn’t mean you have a First Amendment right to be an idiot. Send us an insulting, offensive and/or wildly off-topic comment and not only will we refrain from posting it -- we will laugh at you before we hit delete.

Be a Citizen Editor

Suggest a Story