It was a chilly, rainy day when I stopped by to see Steve Schmidt Facility Supervisor, at McIlvain playground at Penn and Pratt Streets last week.
I found him surrounded by kids and that is how he likes it. The self-described “rec rat” had been an assistant recreation leader with Parks and Recreation for 16 years.
During that time he also taught at Mercy Vocational High School and then later got into social work. He always wanted to work full time in recreation and when the opportunity came along, he grabbed it and has been at McIlvain since April.
He grew up in Olney and has always worked in diverse neighborhoods so Frankford was a perfect fit.
When he first arrived he was surprised to find that there was only the after school program and the tot rec program.
He immediately brought back T ball. Soccer came next with a dance program, drama and tumbling being introduced recently.
Now there is a growing list of programs that has not been seen at McIlvain in quite some time.
There was not much in the line of equipment and the first thing he did was reach out to the contacts he had made throughout the years.
A friend at the Phillies came through with a connection to their Major League Baseball RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities) program.
That brought in the equipment which helped keep the cost to parents down to $15. That includes uniform, trophy and a party at the end of the season.
Working through the McIlvain Advisory Council, he applied for a city wide activities grant with the help of Councilwoman Sanchez and got two new air conditioners for the building.
With the help of the Frankford CDC, he got four laptops for the kids in the after school program. Democratic candidate for State Assembly Jason Dawkins has committed for three more.
During the summer he partnered with the Northeast Bible Fellowship and Pastor Alonzo Johnson to get some badly needed improvements made to the facility by groups from Orange City, Florida; Marietta, Georgia and Hopkinton, Massachusetts. They also ran a sport camp,
In a short time, it is starting to look like a major turnaround but he is not satisfied. Plans for the future are to maintain and improve the basketball and baseball program.
The former home of the Frankford Boys Club which left 5 years ago is in shambles and needs to be rebuilt to make it useable.
He wants to bring families back into the park and make it safe for use at all times of the day.
Planning is going on now for a Zumba class and Salsa dancing for adults.
Volunteers are always welcome and donations, both financial and material, are needed.
If you have useable sports equipment, it would be welcome. Financial donations to the McIlvain Advisory Council would be awesome.
Want to tutor kids or help them with homework? Call Steve. If there is coaching that you think you can handle, call Steve. This is your park, come out and help build it up.
As he says “This has been my dream job all my life…This is where I belong.”
You can reach Steve at 215-685-1228 or stop by the playground at 5200 Penn Street.