Where we are so far with planning for how we'll use the WPCC space together
These are some of the impressions and recollections that the West Philadelphia Community Center evokes in long-time neighborhood residents. When this beloved neighborhood treasure faced an uncertain transition, Drexel took on the responsibility for holding a place for it so that this heart of the neighborhood could continue beating. As we integrate the WPCC building into the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships site we plan to keep it alive and accessible as an important neighborhood resource. Perhaps some of the programming and activities will be new and different, but by letting WPCC’s history be our guide for the future, we hope that the new chapter for this space will continue to generate the kinds of memories and experiences for West Philadelphia families that it always has.
The building that we know as WPCC started its life as a space operated by the Boys and Girls Club. Established in 1987, the Boys and Girls Club provided the children of Mantua with a safe and fun place to spend time after school and on weekends. The Crime Prevention Association, which later became the Caring People Alliance, a Philadelphia social services agency focusing on providing educational and health-promoting activities for youth, families, and seniors, later took over the space. CPA added a high quality early childhood education service along with programming for teens and seniors. They retained the existing relationship with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America with an entire range of after-school and summer programming in arts and culture as well as games and sports for the next generation of neighborhood families.
When Caring People Alliance made the difficult decision to shift their operations to another location, Drexel was able to purchase the property, subsequently launching a community planning process that will take us from understanding the value that this resource has provided through identifying preferences for future programming in order to shape fundraising and renovation.
Staff from Drexel’s Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships facilitated a series of community meetings from summer 2018 through spring 2019 in order to learn what neighborhood residents wanted most out of WPCC’s next phase, and these words reflect the ways participants answered the question, “what is your vision for the space?” A modernized facility, with programming for all ages, and activities that are affordable and accessible to all: this is how a collective vision took shape.
Those who participated in this early stage of the planning process brought a compelling and wide-ranging set of preferences for the kinds of programming and activities that the Dornsife Center should be hosting in this space going forward:
- Programs to support family life
- Youth-focused learning and recreation programs
- Intergenerational programs
- Programs geared specifically for men and women
- Programs and services for seniors
- Career readiness and access programs
- Programs to promote citizenship and community engagement
- Health and wellness programs and services
- Sports and fitness activities
- Social activities
- A resource and information hub
- Meeting space for both formal and informal functions
With this vibrant range of programs, services, and activities, neighborhood residents see a powerful link to their ambitions for their neighborhood. With careful ongoing collaboration, we can create a next chapter for WPCC that will honor the gifts that the Boys and Girls Club and Caring People Alliance brought to the community in the past, while reaching for an inspiring future vision. Participants have identified outcomes that they would like to see from this updated resource: improving education outcomes for children, addressing existing program gaps, bridging residents to work and career pathways, supporting both physical and behavioral health, improving community and social networking opportunities, and acting as an embodiment of a neighborhood that sees an affirmative and optimistic future ahead.