Pennsport: Five People Making A Difference
South Philadelphia is known for its small, close-knit communities. The diligent involvement of neighbors keeping their communities clean, safe, entertained and well-fed allows that family atmosphere to flourish. Pennsport and its adjoining neighborhoods reap the benefits of dedicated workers who truly make a difference in their community. Whether it’s 25 years of service with a smile or organizing sports programs for hundreds of children each year, these devoted individuals have accomplishments that make their neighbors proud.
Gooey Looie’s in the Pennsport Mall serves a great cheesesteak or corn beef special. John Scafidi (pictured above) may be as much an institution as the place itself. He has worked behind the counter at the small shop for 25 years preparing sandwiches.
“It’s like family here,” Scafidi said. “It’s fun. If you can’t have fun where you work, then what’s the point?”
Scarfidi formerly resided in Pennsport and likes the community there, saying many of regulars who frequent the shop are neighborhood people.
“I just enjoy making people happy,” he said. “They take two minutes to make, but it’s rewarding when [customers] come back and say, ‘that was a great sandwich.’”
Before Rusty Martz became president of the Mummers Museum last year, the place was in rough shape. The museum at 2nd Street and Washington Avenue had unpaid utility bills and maintenance issues that had gone unaddressed.
Martz used his own money to pay the museum’s debts and is working to improve the exhibits and the museum facilities.
A veteran of the Golden Sunrise New Year’s Association, Martz’s goal to expose one of his passions to the wider community is slowly coming true. Already the museum has seen improvements, such as a new HDTV to display video of past New Year’s Day parades. Martz hopes to introduce piped-in music and a projector to the museum’s ground floor to round out the colorful exhibits.
A proud homeowner on the 400 block of Dickinson Street, Lyn Westcott spearheaded a grassroots movement to improve her neighborhood, one block at a time. While an MBA candidate at Temple University, a professor once told her to “invest in what you know.” Westcott chose to invest in her neighborhood and, beginning in the 1980s, purchased property and made improvements to many houses on her block.
“When you turn on the lights, the cockroaches scatter,” Westcott said.
She concentrated on selecting tenants for her properties who would take care of their homes. As part of a team of neighbors, she also worked to beautify the block by planting trees and window boxes and picking up trash.
Since 1970, Ed McBride of Fitzgerald Street in Whitman has been the president of the Edward O’Malley athletic association. For more than 50 years, the athletic association has helped young boys and girls to enjoy organized baseball, football, hockey, basketball, softball and now even a new lacrosse program.
“There’s hardly anyone in this neighborhood who hasn’t grown up playing for EOM,” McBride said. “I always say I want every kid from the first guy on the team to the last to have a spot to play.”
Functioning as the top administrator for the organization, McBride has been instrumental in keeping the EOM’s various athletic programs up and running. As a former Local 98 man and a member of the Quaker City String Band, McBride is also an active member of the South Philadelphia community.
Ted Savage moved to the 1500 block of South 5th Street a mere six years ago, but he’s wasted no time getting involved. Since moving to South Philadelphia from Society Hill, Savage has resurrected the Dickinson Narrows Civic association, now the Dickinson Square West Civic Association, and become its president. He’s also the captain of his block and has been involved in getting neighborhood cleanup and beautifying efforts going.
In 2012, he organized the neighborhood’s first participation in Philly Spring Cleanup. That year, he brought 20 volunteers with him. Last year, about 50 people came out.
“It’s worth every bit of effort,” he said. “I love this neighborhood.”
– Words and images (except photo of Lyn Westcott) by Nina Lispi and Eddie Durkin.