As of March 2011, the Philadelphia crime rate has increased compared to what it was in March of last year. Many organizations like the recently opened BE Arts Academy on Broad Street, have been aiming to get the kids off the streets and into a safe environment. The Holmesburg Boys Club has been quietly doing this for the past 50 years.
The large white brick building at Lansing and Ditman streets houses a full basketball court that doubles indoor hockey rink with boards and glass. Unlike many other boys and girls clubs in Philadelphia, Holmesburg is entirely owned and operated by volunteers.
“We pay our own bills. We pay our own utilities,” says Matthew Mullins, the political liaison for the club. “This is a privately owned arena.”
From the youngest child who wants to be like his favorite athlete to the high school superstar living his dream, Holmesburg Boys Club aims to offer a variety of sports and activities for kids of all ages. The club hosts basketball, football, indoor foot hockey, cheerleading, softball and baseball.
“The coaches are for the kids, they’re neighborhood guys. They come together. They care about the kids. [It’s] not about them winning, [it’s] about each individual child themselves getting them to learn the sport that they’re playing,” boasts Kim Burns, a proud parent of an athletic son. “We just signed him up for summer hockey and then he is going to do football and then his regular hockey again in the winter.”
Sue McMahon, the volunteer treasurer for the club, was once a parent like Kim Burns. “My two daughters started here and that’s when I got involved — almost 25 years ago.”
In order to keep the club thriving, expenses could reach up to $30,000 a year in equipment, utilities and maintenance. The volunteers raise money by receiving grants from local politicians, collecting membership fees and holding fundraisers.
“I take in all the money. I record the money accurately. Then I pass it over to the financial secretary, who then writes out the bills. So there’s a check and balance system going on,” explains McMahon.
At the moment the Holmesburg Boys Club is holding registration for its first summer foot hockey league. The club currently serves more than 500 families.
Danny Donnelly is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.