Overbrook Park: Community Cleanup Day Attracts Far Flung Help

Volunteers from Iglesia Ni Cristo Giving Project and Villanova University assisted the Overbrook Park Civic Association by picking up trash and raking leaves.

The Overbrook Park Civic Association orchestrated a Saturday community cleanup event in late September continuing its efforts to beautify the Rose Playground and the surrounding area.

Volunteers planted flowers around the Overbrook Park sign that welcomes people into the neighborhood.

Angela Hall-Morris, treasurer of the Overbrook Park Civic Association, organized this beautification event for this organization founded more than 30 years ago that now has more than 200 members.

“The purpose of the Overbrook Park Civic Association is to gather all the people that live in Overbrook Park so we can unify the neighborhood and beautify the neighborhood, provide resources for the people in the neighborhood and to make Overbrook Park a wonderful place to live,” Hall-Morris said.

The beautification event got off to a slow start with just Hall-Morris and a few other volunteers in gardening gloves picking up trash and scattered leaves in a mostly empty playground. But before long more help arrived.

Shortly after 9 that morning members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo Church Giving Project arrived willing to help. They even brought their own film crew to document the event and encourage other similar projects.

Members of this church, coming from locations as far as New York and Delaware, take pride in assisting neighborhood groups to renovate and clean parks and playgrounds. The Giving Project group was founded in 2011 and it’s self-proclaimed mission, according to the group’s Facebook page, aims to “extend the presence of the Iglesia Ni Cristo members to its community partners by supporting their efforts to provide solutions to help families succeed and achieve.”

Joy Bandolon, a Giving Project member and Aston, Pa resident, said, “We get in touch with different community organizations to reach out, and we try our very best to share and help. It’s our way of sharing our faith because that’s what Christians do, we help out.”

Volunteers from Iglesia Ni Cristo Giving Project and Villanova University assisted the Overbrook Park Civic Association by picking up trash and raking leaves.

After the church members arrived volunteers began tasks like removing weeds that had overgrown playground equipment and signs around the park. Working mostly in pairs or small groups church members swept and raked leaves from the playing field and basketball courts. They also used a leaf blower to clear debris from pedestrian walkways.

Additional volunteers arrived later in the morning to help. Two yellow school buses parked outside the playground, located at 1300 N. 75th St. On board were students from Villanova University who strolled off carrying refreshments and bottled water for their fellow volunteers.

These students continued with the theme of giving back to the community.

“We need to remember that not every place is as fortunate as we are. Villanova has a really pretty campus but we need to make sure other places can have the opportunity to look beautiful as well,” Villanova freshman Chrissy Conners said.

Cleanup organizer Hall-Morris took charge once all volunteers arrived on the scene. She began corralling volunteers into groups assigning specific tasks: cutting branches off of trees extending into nearby streets, uprooting old, withering plants and replacing them with new ones. Students and other volunteers planted nearly a dozen new trees on the grounds. Soon, children filled the now clean jungle gym area. Hall-Morris, with an ever-present smile on her face, even sent a group of workers to other locations in the area to provide extra help to the community.

Approximately four hundred volunteers participated in this event. For Hall-Morris benefits from the cleanup radiate far beyond the playground. One benefit Civic Association members relish is positive impacts on property values resulting from inspiring neighbors to take more pride in maintaining their homes.

Property values in the 19151 ZIP code where the Civic Association conducts business were nearly equal with those for the city as a whole according to the 2010 data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Nearly 4,000 out of the 83,000 homes in the area had property values of more than $80,000. That number comes out to approximately 47 percent. Citywide homes valued at over $80,000 was just over 50 percent. Approximately 12 percent of homes in the 19151 zip-code had a value between $100,000 and $125,000 compared to the city’s total percentage is less than ten percent.

The Civic Association considers its hard work as having had an effect in keeping property values in the community consistent with city averages.

“We work hard to assist residents in maintaining a clean environment, safe streets and obtaining resources to ensure residents are able to reside in an attractive home,” Association President Farida Saleem said. “This helps maintain the values of our properties.”

Overbrook Park Civic Association board directors guided volunteers as the cleanup began.

The cleanup provided satisfaction to Association members and volunteers alike. As volunteer Frank Bandolon said, “we experience a great feeling giving back to the community.”


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