In the past, Campbell Square Park was known as a gathering place for drug addicts. In 1989, Friends of Campbell Square formed to create a clean and safe environment for Port Richmond residents.
“There was a lot of drug addicts here,” said the secretary of Friends of Campbell Square, Susan Ongirski. “Before there was drinking and fighting, and then everyone came together to clean up the park and get all the drug addicts out.”
Campbell Square Park, located on Belgrade Street and Allegheny Avenue, is now home to a variety of events hosted by Friends of Campbell Square. The organization, which currently consists of eight members, is funded by donations from local businesses, as well as from a grant provided by the Port Richmond Horticultural Society.
All the proceeds the organization brings in goes to necessities for future events, such as providing water bottles and snacks.
On Sunday, June 8, the organization had its third spring event of the year, the spring flea market. Vendors paid $15 for table space to sell their household items. Everything from jewelry and headbands, to baseball cards and kitchen supplies were up for sale.
“Not only do people from Port Richmond come out, but so do people from Kensington, Bridesburg and Fishtown,” said Ongirski. “They all come out and bring their stuff to sell and meet new people. It’s a huge event that brings the community together.”
Pat Moritz has been a Port Richmond Resident her entire life. She enjoys all the events that Friends of Campbell Square put together.
“I’ve seen so many people I haven’t seen in awhile,” said Moritz. “It’s a great time.”
Friends of Campbell Square meet monthly to discuss all upcoming occasions. They organize two events each month in order to bring the community closer together.
“They have a Halloween parade, a fall flee market, a Christmas tree lighting and movies in the summertime for the kids,” said neighbor Dennis McGuigan. “They always have something going on for everyone.”
This summer one event in particular is highly anticipated. Friends of Campbell Square will host a Disney’s Frozen themed movie night in the park.
“This movie is extremely popular with the kids right now,” said Ongirski. “We are expecting a large turnout.”
McGuigan, a police officer at Richmond Elementary School, said that the organization acts quickly in regards to the appearance of the park.
“They’re in here right away,” said McGuigan. “Any time there is graffiti they take care of it immediately.”
Besides Friends of Campbell Square, other local organizations such as Ladies of Port Richmond, The Port Richmond Town Watch and the Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic Association, hold events at the park.
“We all work together for the community,” said Ongirski.
Over the years, Friends of Campbell Square have helped to transform the park that was once known as “Needle Park,” into a setting that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
“Seniors sit in the park, kids play ball, people walk their dogs,” said Ongirski. “It gives you a feeling of an old fashioned neighborhood. You can come out and be safe without anybody bothering you.”
–Video, text and images by Catherine Palmer and Angelise Stuhl