Residents on the 6300 block of Overbrook Avenue confidently express pride as one of the few neighborhoods where one can still go next door to borrow sugar or eggs and everyone knows each other’s name.
Paul and Laurel Wilson have lived on Overbrook Avenue for the past 31 years.
During their time on the block they have lived in two separate homes, one located just three doors from the other. As they raised their three children, they watched their neighborhood grow into a diverse community.
“Everyone on the block was older so when we moved in with our kids and our son was born, it was like a rebirth for the community,” Laurel Wilson said. “People were so excited.”
Over the years, the neighborhood has grown to include new families and younger generations of the same older couples the Wilsons remember.
“We’re very close with next door [because] when we moved in their parents lived there,” Paul Wilson said. “We watched their parents die, their children graduate high school and graduate college and they’re the second generation here.”
Single parents, young couples and life-long residents work together to preserve their block’s unique closeness. Several homes on the block have been passed through multiple generations of families.
“My husband grew up here so he’s been here about 40 years,” Connie Glynn said. “We’re a multigenerational home.”
The neighborhood is close to encompassing everything Philadelphians would look for in a neighborhood. However, newer residents have difficulty finding local schools meeting their standards.
Stephanie Kindt, was drawn to the neighborhood for its friendliness, history and diversity, but disappointed these aspects of the block were limited to their part of the neighborhood.
“The one thing I would complain about is we don’t have a school,” Kindt said.
Kindt’s four sons attend private schools closer to Center City.
Children on Overbrook Avenue would attend Overbrook High School, a densely populated public high school.
Data from the 2009-2010 school year showed only 19 percent of students were proficient in reading and 15 percent were proficient in math.
Yatvin is a 20-year resident of the block. Her sons have already graduated high school but she voiced concern that there is no commonality in schools.
“Even though my children are older, I wish there was a good neighborhood school for the children to go to,” Laura Yatvin said. “There is a feeling of good neighborhood spirit among the people here.”
With no public school in the area with families’ approval, many make the hardships of sending them to other charter or private schools in the surrounding communities.
“I would worry about him [her son] taking transportation to school,” Laurel Wilson said. “It was so far, sometimes it would take him an hour to get to school with [public] transit.”
“We wanted our kids to go to public school but it was a struggle to find a good or safe public school that really reflects the community,” Wilson said.
Wilson is a former middle school nurse. Her son and daughter attended Overbrook Educational Center and Julia R. Masterman Charter School. Wilson said she wanted public schools to better incorporate the variety of religions and a socioeconomic mix of people the block embraces.
“It’s difficult because now Philadelphia schools are really failing in comparison to suburban schools,” Olivia Willis, 2nd generation resident, said. “If you plan on having children, unless they’re going to be accepted into charter schools downtown which are still extremely expensive many people are moving to suburbs who have kids to send them to really nice suburban schools.”
Willis is a recent Temple University Law School graduate. She grew up on Overbrook Avenue but is unsure if she would start her family in the neighborhood because of the lack of quality public schools.
“If I could just pick this street up and move it onto the suburb side I definitely would,” Willis said.
Willis credits her neighbors with helping her decide what she wanted to do professionally by allowing her to shadow them at their law practice while in college.
Olivia and her mother, Pat Willis, consider their neighbors extended family.
“I have all my children here, I love having them home,” Pat Willis said. “We’re really family-oriented.”
Pat Willis opens her home to not only her family, but neighbors as well.
“[In our house] because it’s such an open space we hold most of our family parties here,” Olivia Willis said. “When we hold these parties, whether it’s a graduation or a summer party we invite all of our neighbors over and they do the same for us.”
From lawyers to construction workers, retirees to recent graduates, neighbors on the 6300 block are from all walks of life.
Regardless of difficulties with the surrounding neighborhood, residents of Overbrook Avenue can find commonalities in their dedication to the block and their families.