South Philadelphia: Recreation Center Keeps Kids Off the Streets

The Marian Anderson has helped many young children throughout the years.
The Marian Anderson has helped many young children throughout the years.
The Marian Anderson Recreation Center has helped local children.

Named after the first African-American woman to sing at the White House, the Marian Anderson Recreation Center has been standing since 1958. Located at 740 S. 17th St., the rec center was once the home court of Deion Waiters, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, and Darius Madison, a forward on the Philadelphia Union soccer team. It has provided a number of programs and resources to get kids off the streets and onto the courts and fields.

The rec center offers youth a chance to play on baseball and basketball leagues, which run in house, district and city wide, said Recreation Director Shawn Wilson. Its RBI baseball program is a nationwide program and in 2008, the rec center’s team won the RBI World Series. Boxing, martial arts, soccer, arts and crafts and an after-school program are also offered throughout the year.

“One other program we have is called Small Fry Cooking which is sort of a mommy and me cooking class,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the rec center’s in-house facilities include a boxing gym, basketball gym, a small auditorium with a stage, computer room, and three rooms for people to meet and conduct activities.

The rec center is directed toward younger children who are allowed to participate in programs until they are 14. At this age they are able to be players in a high school competition. Wilson said he believes “the rec center gives the children something to do,” outside of their daily routine of life and school.

There is no membership needed for most of the rec center’s activities. In fact, kids can show up and participate or work their way up through the ranks by going from in-house teams to traveling teams at the rec center.

Wilson said he grew up in the neighborhood and “the neighborhood has changed significantly” since he was a child. In particular, the rec center’s playground is not what it used to be.

“On Katherine Street there’s one family that has children,” he said. “Eighteenth Street is the same way. All the families that were around here are gone, so there may be a quarter of the amount of children around here now as there were before.”

However, Wilson said that the center gets plenty of children from other neighborhoods. It also still helps motivate kids to stay in school and eventually consider moving onto college.

For more information about the Marian Anderson Recreation Center, you can visit its website at or call 215-685-6594.

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