The heart of a North Philadelphia neighborhood beats its bad rep.
Between ringing up local kids buying candy and chips, Hunter says she’s tired of always hearing bad things about Hunting Park.
“Not everything is negative in our neighborhood. We have a lot of things going on that are positive,” she says. “We have a lot of working people. Like everywhere, we have a lot of things we need to change, but it’s not all negative.”
Chatting with Hunter is 32-year-old Ryan Kellermeyer, who has been resident rabble-rouser in the area for the last decade. A graduate of Eastern University, Kellermeyer, unassuming in his jeans and skullcap, has brought his skills in social media, fundraising and strategic networking to the area.
Kellermeyer, raised on the farms of Indiana, and Hunter, a Dominican-born shop owner, are comrades in arms who banter like old friends. It’s clear that they admire one another.
“Oh, she’s humble, like ‘I’m just from the Dominic Republic, I’m just a small-business owner,’ but she gets it done,” he says, kicking back in a chair in front of a deli case.
One of Kellermeyer’s self-appointed duties is to monitor press coverage of Hunting Park. He has his own opinion about Hunting Park’s killer headlines.
“I see every story that ever comes about this neighborhood and it’s not often you see positive things,” says Kellermeyer. If it bleeds, it leads, he shrugs. But now, he says, even that’s changing because of the revitalization plan.
Plus, Kellermeyer says, the neighborhood’s boundaries magically stretch when it comes to news stories, and many crimes that take place anywhere near Hunting Park Avenue—which laces through other neighborhoods—get attributed to Hunting Park as a catchall.
Kellermeyer takes out his phone and shows a picture of Martin Campbell, the young off-duty officer who was just shot. (Later, Kellermeyer will point out the sidewalk bloodstain that he thinks spilled from Campbell.) In the picture, the cop’s smiling. Hunter shakes her head, says she knows him too.
“One of the things about this area, all the people who are concerned know one another now,” says Kellermeyer. “That wasn’t so much the case five years ago. But now there are a network of groups … individuals, institutions and politicians are more connected now.”
Today a storefront church called the Eighth Street Ministries sits at Eighth and Butler. It’s been operating here for two years. Depending on who you ask, the corner space was either a strip club or one-time campaign office of Bill Rieger, the recently deceased longtime representative for the 179th District, who was frequently criticized for his lack of participation including not actually living in his district.
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