Front and Schiller Park
In Reading, Pennsylvania, a community leader pairs fun community activities with cleanup efforts to reactive an underutilized pocket park and engage residents in reclaiming their neighborhood.
Starting in 2020, Ashely DeJesus Santiago, a young mother of three, started organizing the themed clean up at the Front and Schiller Park. DeJesus lives across from the Front and Schiller Park, a pocket park located on the northwest side of Reading. Neighbors have been concerned with the safety of the park because it is surrounded by houses and the police do not have a direct line of sight from the streets. As a mother, she was frustrated with the amount of broken glass and trash, but was aware that its location in the neighborhood was appealing to families who live around it. In a sense, the park is an extension of their homes.
DeJesus Santiago got the idea of leading clean up, that felt more mini-festival than cleanup, from an internship with a community based organization. The cleanup days featured art activities, a photo booth, health booths, food, and candy, and are centered around celebrations such as back-to-school and Halloween. After witnessing the success of her first event, and receiving positive feedback from her neighbors, she pledged to continue the initiative. DeJesus Santiago organized six events in 2020 and nine events in 2021. The projects are funded by individual contributions from the network of people DeJesus was introduced to during her internship.
In order to keep to momentum going, and reach other areas in the community, DeJesus Santiago is training neighbors to lead their own events in 2022. De Jesus feels, “I know I want to keep going. I just need to figure out how. The park and the neighborhood deserve it.”
Property Type: Open Space
Project Type/ New Use: Art – Small Scale (e.g. painting; performance; visual)
Project Purpose: Community engagement
Duration: Once / Single Day
Initial Cost: Under $10,000
Funding Source: Philanthropy; In kind services Organization Type: Community Leader Implementation Partner
Organization Type: Nonprofit - Arts and Culture
Implementation Partners: Nonprofit - Arts & Culture
Community Type: Urban
Project Website: Front and Schiller Neighbors and Events >
Contributions By: Daniel Egusquiza