The Star

Port Richmond native helps refurbish recreation center

Samuel Re­cre­ation Cen­ter now has a re­fin­ished floor, thanks to the gen­er­os­ity of a loc­al busi­ness own­er.

Port Rich­mond nat­ive and loc­al busi­ness own­er Vince Ovecka donated funds to re­fur­bish the floor at Samuel Re­cre­ation Cen­ter. MELISSA KO­MAR / STAR PHOTO

It was a harsh winter in the River Wards this year—look no fur­ther than the re­cord-set­ting num­ber of potholes and around-the-clock wa­ter main breaks. No ex­ter­i­or or in­teri­or sur­face was spared, and the in­door bas­ket­ball court of Samuel Re­cre­ation Cen­ter at 3549 Gaul St. in Port Rich­mond was no ex­cep­tion.  

Amid con­stant use and a parade of salt-caked sneak­ers run­ning up and down the court, the con­di­tion of the floor de­teri­or­ated. Void of coat­ing to provide grip, the sur­face be­came slip­pery.

Ac­cord­ing to Jam­ie Lohse, the fa­cil­ity su­per­visor of Samuel, each in­di­vidu­al fa­cil­ity is re­spons­ible for main­tain­ing the floors. The floor had last been re­fin­ished about five years ago, Lohse said.

Lohse brought up the con­di­tion of the floor in cas­u­al con­ver­sa­tion to Vince Ovecka, a Port Rich­mond nat­ive who some­times plays pick-up bas­ket­ball and soc­cer games at the cen­ter, and asked if he’d want to help.

Know­ing firsthand the con­di­tion of the floor, Ovecka eas­ily agreed.

“I no­ticed the floors were in pretty bad shape,” Ovecka said. “You can mop it, you can sweep it, but it’s not go­ing to give the grip that’s needed.”

After get­ting ap­prov­al from the De­part­ment of Re­cre­ation, Lohse ar­ranged for a loc­al floor com­pany, T Kev­in Floor­ing, to re­fin­ish the floor. All work, which in­cluded sand­ing and coat­ing the floor with var­nish, was com­pleted on Thursday, April 17.

The total cost of the pro­ject was $2,300, all of which Ovecka donated.

While the work on the floor may seem like a small im­prove­ment, it has lar­ger im­plic­a­tions.

“This af­fects the rec be­cause we can now of­fer more pro­grams in the gym and all par­ti­cipants who do util­ize our gym are safe and do not have to worry about slip­ping,” Lohse said.  

Many of those par­ti­cipants in­clude youth bas­ket­ball play­ers from the neigh­bor­hood.

Port Rich­mond nat­ive Joe Lamb coaches Our Lady of Port Rich­mond’s Cath­ol­ic Youth Or­gan­iz­a­tion varsity bas­ket­ball team and runs a spring bas­ket­ball camp at A&W play­ground, both groups that oc­ca­sion­ally use the in­door court at the re­cre­ation cen­ter.

“It was in bad con­di­tion,” Lamb said. “It was slip­pery and really needed to be done.”

A few days after work was com­pleted, Lamb took his son to the court to prac­tice and noted that the floors looked and felt brand new.

“It’s a nice thing that someone who has suc­cess like Vinny gives back to the neigh­bor­hood,” Lamb said. “People don’t even know most of the things he does for kids in the neigh­bor­hood. That’s what makes the neigh­bor­hood a nice place.”

Aside from the re­cent floor pro­ject, Ovecka, a State Farm agent with an of­fice in Fishtown, spon­sors—usu­ally by pay­ing for uni­forms—many loc­al sports or­gan­iz­a­tions, in­clud­ing both Lamb’s ele­ment­ary school team and camp, which has more than 100 par­ti­cipants.

Al­though he now lives in New Jer­sey, Ovecka be­lieves be­ing a good neigh­bor is his duty as a loc­al busi­ness own­er.

“It’s im­port­ant to me be­cause I have a busi­ness in the com­munity and I be­lieve in giv­ing back,” he said. “Un­for­tu­nately with me liv­ing in Mount Laurel, I don’t get to be as phys­ic­ally in­volved as I would like, so this feels like at least one way I can make a dif­fer­ence and help out.”  ••

Melissa Ko­mar can be reached at mak0721@ve­r­i­

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