Small beginnings lead to big changes at Price Street Playground.
Gerald DuBose couldn’t say exactly when the idea of cleaning up the Price Street playground hit him, he just knew he was tired of walking past it every night after work. The padlocked gate, the vines growing so thick on the ground you couldn’t see the play area, the trash, the rusty equipment – it all rubbed him the wrong way. Worse yet, no one else seemed to care. If the lock and the trashy conditions kept away the drug dealers that used to sell at all hours in the playground, then many neighbors seemed OK with the deal.
“The other thing that bugged me,” he said, “was there’s a basketball court open right next door. What about something for the little kids?” He attended neighborhood meetings hosted by Cindy Bass to try and get some help but “all anybody wanted to talk about was break-ins and paint fumes and traffic, but nobody talked about the park. Not to be arrogant, but one day I just stood up and said I’m going to clean up the park with or without anyone else’s help and I’m gonna do it out of my own pocket.”
There wasn’t much reaction from the audience because “people probably here promises like that all the time” and never see the follow through. But one thing he learned from his father was “your word is all you got. When you give it, you have to keep it.”
A few weeks later those words were ringing in his ears when his father passed away suddenly. As fate would have it, the funeral was August 4th, the same day that Gerald had chosen for the cleanup. “I had to go through with the cleanup, even though my family was mad at me. I told em that I gave my word and I didn’t want to let anyone down who showed up to help.”
He decided to go early to the park and attend the funeral, which began at 10:30, as soon as he could. The decision nagged at him from the minute he got out of bed at 6AM. Arriving at the park in darkness, he was shocked to find Terry, a coworker, already there waiting to start cleaning. “And then Dineka, one of my neighbors showed up, then another coworker Levin, and then other people just started coming. Even in the rain, they kept coming. We wound up with about 20 people in that park. That made me feel really good.”
Gerald knew the park hadn’t been cleaned in many years but he was still surprised by the amount of trash and particularly the vines that seemed to have covered everything. “And we’re not talking some little vines you might pull out of a garden, these went from the front of the playground all the way to the back fence. Easily over 100 feet.”
Having so many hands made the work easier – as did donations of supplies from his work, Westinghouse Lighting. “They donated all kinds of things for the cleanup, rakes, brooms, shovels, trashbags, and buckets of paint. They even gave me a banner that said Price Street Volunteer Cleanup Day.” The gesture touched him so much that he “got emotional right there at work. I cried tears of joy.”
More tears followed at his father’s funeral, as did another surprise. “I met a guy there who’s with the Probation and Parole Department and he had guys who needed to do community service so he brought them out and they took away all those trashbags we filled up.” The man also had connections with the Anti-Graffiti Network, and he offered some spray paint for the playground’s front gate.
The “coincidence” wasn’t a coincidence at all to Gerald. “Funny I met him that day – I believe that’s how God works, but it isn’t just you get something for nothing. You have to take the initiative to open the door first to receive that help.”
And help continues to come in – from his neighbors helping him hand out volunteer flyers to others donating money ($200 so far). He’s even gotten some good ideas about next projects. “A friend of mine, Mr. Charlie, said we should look into other parks that need help once we get done with this one.” That’s going to be a little while since there’s still work left to do at Price Street.
Gerald’s hoping more volunteers will pitch in (“we can use all the help we can get”) and has spoken with an aide at Cindy Bass’ office about assistance, particularly with the playground equipment. “That stuff looks like it’s from the 70s or 80s. It could use some new padding under the equipment too.” So far, the aide has asked for pics of the playground when the cleanup’s done so “they can try to get Parks and Rec involved.”
But the uncertainty doesn’t phase Gerald. “Every day the last few weeks after I get home from work, I put on my boots and go out again. Got my tools, my ladder, and shovels in there. It may only be a little bit, but that’s how big things get done.”
Pitch in for the Playground
With Many Thanks
Gerald is deeply grateful to friends and neighbors who pitched in to clean up the playground.
Donna Dubose, Charlie Slater, Tony & Pat Mathis, Barbara Kigozi, Clarice Thomas, Ms. Anne, Fallon Link, Thomas & Mandisa Jones, Allison Weiss, Anne B Chris, Marilyn Goings, Cortesa Colee, Ms. Barbara, Chareese Wilson, Vincent Seanes, Ms. Amy, Levin Worford, Mr. Terry, Dineka Briggs & Family, Mr. Pierce, Mr. Kirby, Donna Elijah, Ms. Anita B., Levin Worford, Abe McKnight, Mildred Clark, Millicent Clark, Linda Clark.
Gerald was born and raised in North Philadelphia. He moved to the 5200 block of Knox Street two years ago, where he lives with his wife Donna, his daughter Debbie, a dog (Hazel) and a cat (Duda – who runs the house).