The historic Lee Cultural Center sits on 9.4 acres in West Philadelphia, just to the west of Drexel’s Buckley and Vidas athletic fields. The property is heavily used — hundreds from the surrounding neighborhoods use the building and its grounds for all kinds of activities from sports camps to community meetings, dance rehearsals to chess games. While all of this activity is exactly what’s intended for the property, it certainly leaves its mark.
In the fall, the Community Alumni Network at Drexel University (CAN DU), an outreach program of the Alumni Association, stepped in to spruce up the 220-year-old building and its fields. For the fall CAN DU service project, 154 alumni, students and friends of the University volunteered their time to paint, clear away weeds and overgrown brush, and pick up trash and debris at this beloved community center.
The center was originally a brick mansion built by Matthew McConnell, a high-ranking officer of the Revolutionary War. It is believed that McConnell, who was appointed director of the Bank of the United States at the time, built the mansion in 1794 to serve as a country home and escape from the city.
“As a biomedical engineer, my life at Drexel is busy and I was glad I was able to give back to the community on a Saturday morning,” said Corey Wald ’18.
Wald said that his favorite part of the whole experience was working with and getting to know upperclassmen and alumni. “Being a freshman, I look up to and respect these older students and alumni who shared their experiences with me,” he said. “I made new friends that morning, people I probably never would have met otherwise.”
“It was a great opportunity to spend the morning with a dear friend, Bonnie Loughlin-Dougherty (’84), and to give back to those who truly do not have as much as we are all blessed to have,” said Mary-Ann Urbanovich ’84.
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, a longtime supporter of CAN DU, was on hand the day of the fall project to see the transformation take place.
“We applaud CAN DU and thank them for their volunteer efforts to assist in improving the conditions at Lee Cultural Center,” said Blackwell. “We reached out to Drexel University as the next door neighbor who relates to the need of the center and the community. We look forward to extending and expanding the services provided to this neighborhood and beyond.”
A lot was accomplished, but CAN DU’s work is not yet complete. On Saturday, May 17, CAN DU volunteers will return to the Lee Center to complete phase two of the service project.
“Some of the plans for phase two include cleaning and refurbishing the computer lab and library, painting the restrooms and removing graffiti,” said Rich Blumberg ’84, chair of the Alumni Association Board of Governors Community Service Committee.
“I’m thrilled with how things went in the fall and I’m looking forward to the spring project,” said Blumberg. “Drexel has a long history of supporting civic engagement and it’s nice to know that our idea to help the Lee Center has become a reality.”
Visit http://bit.ly/1013candu for a video recap of the fall service project at the Lee Center, and for more information on CAN DU. To register to volunteer for phase two in May, visit drexel.edu/alumni.