Every Saturday, the sound of children playing outside, basketballs hitting the pavement or children running around sharing their new piece of artwork to others are common occurrences at the New Creation Community Center, located on 162 W. Tioga Street.
Seven years ago, Director R. Scott Thornton began the program Values Through Sports to help children develop life skills that will further them in becoming a responsible adult.
“The way it started was that the pastor from my church, Gloria Dei, in Huntingdon Valley, knew the pastor at New Creation and suggested it as a location for ministry. I believe that first and foremost Jesus was a social justice prophet trying to bring God’s way into the world with its radical forms of love, compassion, forgiveness, generosity and peace,” Thornton said. “These are some of the most marginalized children in the city and I try to let them know that there are people who love them and think they are special, and think that each and every one of them can become someone special in the world.”
The program invites children living in the area between the ages of five and 18. Then after the age of 18, they are welcome to come back and volunteer their afternoons.
Regular volunteer, C.J. Peterson started coming four years ago when he was 16. The young adult can most likely be found playing it up on the basketball court with the children from the neighborhood or teaching the younger kids how to get the basketball in the hoop.
“I just don’t want these kids to grow up the way I grew up. I feel as though, we teach them sports, we teach them positive things, we are getting them off of the streets. There are a lot of gangs around here and its not worth it at the end of the day. After they [the kids] come here one time, it’s like they’re addicted. Why not come and get some exercise, play some sports, get good advice and stay out of the streets. I feel as though if there’s anyway I can help, I will help out as much as I can,” Peterson said.
For the past three years, 11th-grader Gilberto Martinez has been coming to the Values Through Sports.
“I use to never have anything to do on Saturdays but now I can come here, let my stress off and play ball.”