EGG HARBOR CITY — Although it may be close to a year before it officially opens, about two dozen guests were on hand to tour the site that will become a recreation center in the heart of Egg Harbor City.
Egg Harbor City Councilman Angelo Lello has been the driving force behind the project, tentatively titled the Recreation Center of Egg Harbor City.
“This is exactly what the city needs,” Lello said. “It’s going to be a big thing. And I’ve never been happier.”
The site is located at 231 Philadelphia Ave., adjacent to the city’s post office. It is comprised of a two-story commercial space with an adjoining apartment. The building’s owner, who preferred to remain anonymous, has offered the site at no charge for as long as it is in use.
“The downstairs space will be a common area for children to gather for various activities,” Lello said. “We will have ping pong tables and other equipment and we will have activities such as movie nights.”
“We also plan to have a basketball court and a community garden behind the building. Upstairs we will have an area where adults can meet for yoga classes and other activities and students will be able to meet with tutors to help them with their studies. We plan to enlist student volunteers from Stockton University and Cedar Creek High School to help tutor the younger students.”
“We want to get kids ready for the next level in life. This is a place where they will be able to come and be safe.”
Lello said that he is reaching out to all members of the community to participate in the project.
“We are putting together a committee that will include members of city government, the schools, the police and fire departments and parents,” Lello said. “All are welcome.”
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done to get this building into a usable condition, and we will rely on volunteers to help us get it done. It will also be an opportunity for the youth to participate in order to learn skills such as sheetrocking and plumbing that will be a benefit if they need to eventually work on their own homes.”
Lello added that he has someone who has volunteered to serve as the director, but is not yet ready to announce his name.
“This is someone who has done great work in a similar position and has a great rapport with children,” Lello said.
Rashad Martin is a resident of Mullica Township, and as an advocate and mentor for Youth Advocacy Program, has interactions with many children from the schools in Egg Harbor City.
“I’m happy that the city is doing something like this,” he said. “I am glad that they are including children to help get the building in shape, as it will give them a source of pride and purpose.”
Candace Negron is the vice-chair of the Egg Harbor City Coalition for a Safe Community.
“We have wanted this for a very long time,” she said. “The kids need this. It will plant the seeds for them to stay in the community.”
Anyone wishing to volunteer their services to help with the renovation and/or once the facility is open can contact Lello at 609-204-2561 or firstname.lastname@example.org.