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Meet 2024 Grantee: Safe-Hub Philadelphia

This year, the Spruce Foundation was honored to provide grants to four youth-serving nonprofits working to uplift Philadelphia’s young people and create a brighter future for the city as a result.

This week, we’re spotlighting grantee Safe-Hub Philadelphia, an organization offering safe spaces for young people to access high-quality afterschool sports programs that focus on the development of the whole child. Samantha Swerdloff, Product Development Director, and Ashley Webb, EduSoccer Program Coordinator, participated in these Q&As to offer more insight into their organization’s work.

What is your organization’s mission and how are you impacting Philly youth?

Safe-Hub’s mission is to create safe spaces that combine the power of sport and education to empower youth and change lives. As a place-based model, Safe-Hub’s home base is at Scanlon Recreation Center in Kensington/Harrowgate, where we maintain a clean, safe field space for young people to play and learn with well-trained coaches and crowded community resources. Last year, we reached 478 young people ages 4-18 through EduSoccer programming and over 3,000 community members with resources distribution and community events!

What’s a “day in the life” like for your team, the youth you serve, or both?

As an out-of-school time organization, our team spends the morning and early afternoon prepping for programming: from practice planning to equipment preparation to coach training and alignment, we want to make sure we’re ready to give our kids the best possible participant experience when they get to Safe-Hub.

Once our players arrive for their program session, we always start with a Safe Zone with their coaches—a place for players to talk openly about how their day went, reflect on the challenges and successes of last practice, and our team goals for the day. We will then get into some drill-based soccer activities that speak to our goal outlined in the Safe Zone; for example, if we’re working on team-building overall, we might work on some passing drills to work through this idea. Once players have worked through some technical drills and teamwork exercises, the team puts their practice to the test during a scrimmage. We always end with a Safe Zone to reflect, give team shout-outs, and award the Golden Ball to a player who exuded the focus of the practice! All practice sessions focus on tying together soccer and various social-emotional skills to support a young person’s growth and development on and off the field, and are led by trained, consistent coaches building positive relationships with players.

What’s a favorite memory during your time at your organization?

Ashley Webb: At the end of our biggest seasons in the spring and fall, Safe-Hub runs a culminating event for players called the FairPlay Community Cup, bringing together other like-minded soccer organizations across the city to compete in a youth tournament. I’ll always remember the very first FairPlay Cup we ran in the spring of 2023—it was the first time many of our participants had a chance to compete against other players and the first time that many visiting teams had ever been to our neighborhood. It was so cool to see all these communities coming together and to provide a top-tier competition experience that our kids deserve. Of course we had to work through some big emotions with our kids, but I’ll never forget it!

In 10-20 years, what’s one thing you hope youth look back on and remember about being involved in your organization?

Samantha Swerdloff: Maya Angelou said that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Relationships are a core pillar of youth development and of our organization. When participants eventually move on from the program, we hope they remember relationships, connections, and the positive environment of learning.

What’s your vision for future generations in Philadelphia?

Samantha Swerdloff: My vision for future generations is that Philly is a great place to live, work, and play for all, and that access to education and opportunities is equally distributed throughout the city, no matter what neighborhood you live in.

How will your Spruce grant help you see your vision through?

We are incredibly excited to be a Spruce Foundation grant recipient! We are hopeful that this grant opportunity will not only support program activities, but the exposure will spread awareness throughout the city of the positive assets in Kensington/Harrowgate—there are tons of amazing programs, organizations, and activities going on, and we are looking forward to highlighting them with support from the Spruce Foundation!

For over a decade, the Spruce Foundation has provided annual grants to local nonprofits that share our vision for a brighter future for Philadelphia’s young people. From our founding to present day, we’ve believed that empowering the next generation would sow seeds of lasting change in our city. We’re excited to recognize the Body Empowerment Project and each of our 2024 grantees for their impact.