The Diamond Dolls dance troupe performs during a groundbreaking ceremony for a renovation of the Hank Gathers Recreation Center in Strawberry Mansion on Tuesday. Credit: Charles Mostoller/Metro
A hundred youngsters at the Hank Gathers Recreation Center on Tuesday were urged to appreciate coming renovations by a familiar face -- Shirley Hardy, a long-time rec center employee who is known affectionately as "Aunt Shirl."
"I ask you to come out and help us so we can keep what we get, " Hardy said. "All you up-and-coming NBA stars -- we're all all reaching for the stars, so keep reaching."
Ground was broken Tuesday for renovations at the rec center, which will get a new water spray park, new picnic tables, and redesigned greenery. The existing basketball courts and junior baseball diamond will be enhanced.
The project, part of Green2015 Philadelphia, follows similar renovations at William Dick Elementary across the street.
Bernadette Watson, the rec center's after-school coordinator, served on the planning committee for this project and said she was pleased with the changes.
"We want the best for our community. People think 25th and Diamond - it's below the ghetto," Watson said. "This shows us that we're not forgotten. We're on the move."
Nakeisha Scott, 39, whose 9-year-old daughter Heavenly sang Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All" at the ground-breaking, said the renovations will help the neighborhood.
"It's hard out here. Some of us don't know nothing but getting in trouble. We're all trying to be better, but we need positive environments," Scott said. "Everything they [the rec center] do is for the kids, and they need things to do so they're not getting in trouble."
The project, organized by Parks and Recreation and the Trust for Public Land, is expected to be completed by fall.