For one evening it was not the sound of squeaking sneakers or dribbling basketballs, but laughter which filled the Shepard Recreation Center gym.
Friday night, community members staged a comedy fundraiser at the recreation center, located at 5700 Haverford Ave. in the Haddington section of West Philadelphia.
The three-hour event featured four local comedians and raised over $300 for the recreation center, co-sponsor William Wingate estimated.
Wingate and Bruce Clark, both Haddington residents and former patrons of Shepard Recreation Center, acted as the show’s sponsors, organizing the event over the span of two months.
In the hours leading up to the 6 p.m. start time, Wingate, Clark and others converted the gym into a makeshift theater, complete with a sound system, industrial-sized fans and more than 50 folding chairs which faced the stage at the rear end of the room.
The dozens of people who paid the $10 admission fee were treated to a line-up consisting of Malcolm Hill, Timmy Hall, Joe the Boss and Nate the Landlord.
Hill, who headlined the event and performs at venues throughout the city, including Freedom Theater and Laff House Comedy Club, looked at the fundraiser as an opportunity to help more than just the neighborhood children.
“It’s about giving back to the place where I played basketball every day, but also bringing affordable comedy to the inner-city,” Hill said.
Wingate said he would like to see the money generated by the comedy show go toward improving the center’s facilities, which he feels have significantly deteriorated since the days he roamed Shepard’s grounds as a member of a local gang in the 1970s.
Clark agreed the center is in need of some touching up.
“This is a nice recreation center, but if we don’t get any help, there isn’t much we can do about [the conditions],” Clark said.
The pair said hope they can provide the community with another chance to help before Thanksgiving. Both are currently planning a spoken word poetry fundraiser for this November, Wingate said.