One day while wandering, I came across three bricklayers. I asked the first bricklayer what he was doing.”Laying bricks” he told me.I asked the second what he was doing.“Making a brick wall,” he told me.I asked the third.“Building a cathedral” he explained. —-April 18th, 2006, Philadelphia. I pulled into the parking lot of the Helping Hand Rescue Mission and saw 3 inner city children playing football. I didn’t know if I was allowed to talk to them; it hadn’t been long since the grandmother cursed me out on my walk through the neighborhood when I introduced myself.The July before, our group of young suburban adults had come to this segregated part of Philadelphia to pray about starting a church somewhere else in the city. We needed a place to meet to talk about living our faith and starting some kind of mercy ministry, and I was volunteering at the Mission, so we met on the front stairs.I wasn’t thinking about that at all, or our prayers for direction, as I ignored the curios stares of the children and yelled, “Throw me the ball.”A few spirals later and I saw kids coming from all directions; it was as if they had been waiting for us. That game of catch morphed into a wild game of whiffle ball which became a swollen ministry that has jumped over the 6 year mark.
It has been a half decade of thrills and spills that we could not have asked for or imagined here at the Mission. We are not here a project or a ministry; this has become a family where we want the best for our children. We run afterschool programs, kids’ church, a soccer academy, and take trips throughout the year. Our young people grow up in rough circumstances, and we want to offer them every advantage, and to ensure that these are some of the best years of their lives.It has not always been a fun game of catch; we have had 2 neighborhood boys murdered, both unsolved, and worry that rough rides remain ahead for our at-risk youth. If this was an easy area to work in, someone would have done it already.We do it under the Christian umbrella that reminds us to ‘love our neighbors’ as we extend to ‘love our neighborhood’.
As I look back on how it started, I think that it is fair to say our wonderful volunteers were laying bricks in those early months. Currently, we have a remarkable program that is loved by the neighborhood, and it is clear that we have been constructing a wall.Perhaps in another 5 years, we will be able to see that we were really building a cathedral the whole time.
Archive for the ‘philly’ Category
A fresh start. A new normal. Giving kids the advantages we don’t even remember we had. We never worried about whether we had a bag for books or pencils to write with. How can we ask children to achieve without giving them simplistic means to do that?
The KKF is partnering with Groupon Grassroots this week to make sure our kids in Philly do have those means. Follow the link to become a part of the solution: http://www.groupon.com/deals/grs-helping-hand-rescue-mission
Our neighborhood projects are riddled with drugs, crime, violence, and general brokenness. It is a difficult place to grow up, especially for quiet young men. Especially for the ‘last picked on the basketball court’ kind of boy. We have some young people that are athletic and talented and will turn out to be very successful in sports. I don’t know if Irvin will be one of those players. Irvin is as skinny as a child can possibly be. He is not a fighter or loud, and this can make you an outcast in our neighborhood. (He has lived 50 yards from the center of our program, yet I didn’t meet him until our 4thyear). Irvin was maybe on course to be a video game phenom with few friends; and then soccer happened in his life. Irvin loves the game and comes to all of our clinics. He plays outside and other kids join him. Until Irvin, pick-up games only happened with football and basketball in our community.
Especially in this last year, Irvin has broken out of his shell. Soccer has been a communal equalizer in his life. He simply loves this game and it will make his life better. And the kids now know him and love him. And his passion for the game is contagious and it draws others in, bring much needed improvement. He is getting better. Much better. And it is a big piece of his identity.
I gave Irvin a pair of yellow socks about 5 months ago. He wears them to every single practice. Every single practice. He is so excited about our uniforms and shirts that are coming this month. I believe he is simply thrilled about this visible symbol of what the jersey will represent. He will be an equal. He will be the same as the others. He will be on a “team” for the first time in his life.
Irvin probably won’t win a lot of MVP trophies. He might not score winning goals and get his picture in the paper. Still, Irvin represents great things about the game and its power to connect and change and improve young lives. And he is a symbol of the impact the Kyle Korver Foundation has in our neighborhood.
Rolling a soccer ball out does not fix the wounds created by generations of social poverty. Sometimes you have to cut a hole in a wall so kids can see what’s on the other side before they will take part in tearing it down. Soccer is only a piece of that. Irvin is only one of many. But he is one that makes it all worth it when it seems the wall seems too thick and too strong to try.
Everybody wants to be a part of something. As general as that statement is, it holds deep and specific truths about the hearts and futures of our children.
They are shaped by those who go before them and live around them.
Unfortunately, in urban Philadelphia, this is often a way that is apart from things good.
Adam Bruckner is the head of the Philadelphia branch of our Foundation.
He has run a variety of after school and summer programs at the Helping Hands Mission for the last 7 years that we are proud to support. Additionally, since well before we met him, he has worked with the homeless through Project Restart, which provides a weekly meal, compassion, support, as well as much needed help to acquire Identification. In his words:
“A few years ago I was asked to describe our inner city work in Philly. I explained that the homeless problem was complex and that it went well beyond alcohol, drugs, and mental health.
Those are often the most noticeable characters, but there were many others who were simply poor.
They grew up in the projects with a single mother, and they had no safety net if something went wrong. So fire, death, overcrowding, eviction, etc. could lead to homelessness quickly.
As I went on to explain the youth program we run, I said, “Our children grow up in the projects with single mothers, and they…” and at that point what seems obvious now, became clear. Our children could be the next generation of homelessness. So the KKF exists with the hope that someday, we won’t have to run programs for the homeless. One is intervention, the other prevention.”
Recent changes in city legislation, has threatened Project Restarts work. Below is an article from Adam that we would like to share with you from Generocity.org that goes deeper into the current threat. As supporters of Kyle, the Foundation and Seer Outfitters, we want to raise awareness of some of the issues that our family is facing. Thank you for caring.