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Bringing One's Purpose Full Circle with Chloe Harris



As some of our Craft Coven comrades know, the events put on by the Craft Coven would not be possible, if not for the generosity bestowed on us by the places that give these happenings a home. While there is now a central hub for the Craft Coven, located on the breathtaking waterfront in Cherry Street Pier, these events make their way around our city. To keep in rhythm with the Craft Coven’s mission, to bring everything craft to more spaces and people. With accessibility, sustainability and to put out as much good as the Coven can offer to the world. 


One of those locations that has become such an integral part of the Craft Coven community is Starr Garden Playground’s rec center. Located in the Queen Village area of Philadelphia, on 600 Lombard Street. This boisterous playground seems to always hum the tune of playing children, tweeting of a coach’s whistle, buoyant booms of basketballs bouncing, and the watchful eye of a loving staff, with Chloe Harris at the helm. A steadfast supervisor who seems to have been made to be placed in such a key role that is a lifeline to one’s community. Although the path to where she is now wasn’t always direct, the signs were there throughout her journey. Leading to the accumulation of life experiences and what was always meant to be.


Chloe Harris is the third generation within her family to work for the city. The first being her Grandfather who was a Park Ranger. Her mother would follow and was a School District of Philadelphia Teacher. While Chloe had different jobs and career paths in her early adulthood, there was a feeling of something missing that she hadn’t found. At 37, she would change the course of her life, and within it, find her true calling. A familiar familial pull that would take her back to a place that had always felt like home. From Tower Records to the service industry, construction and real estate, none would bring the pure happiness that her work in Parks and Rec would.


What brought you into this work?

Chloe: That’s a great question! In 2017, I was a junior student attending Temple as a Sports and Recreation Manager. I needed to find an internship, and during that time, my son attended school close to Starr Garden. I would take him there after school to burn off some energy before we would go home. I was already familiar with this park, with the need to fulfill my internship requirement, and I thought ‘why not here?’ I already came here, I know everyone who worked here, and to share a little more about myself, I also came here as a kid and teen. I hung out here, played basketball here, even worked around the corner at Tower Records when it was on South Street. Even though I lived in East Falls, I was always going downtown to South Street and to Starr Garden. So, I already felt connected to this place, I did my junior internship here, and I absolutely fell in love with the work! I knew immediately that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  Then it came time for my senior internship. I went through my contacts and reached out to some folks, which in turn led me to being an intern for a district manager. This meant instead of being just at one site, I worked at 16 different sites. Which gave me a deeper look in a macro perspective on how this all operates, on how the sausage is made so to speak, which was great. After graduating, I started at Starr Garden and then would get transferred all around South and Southwest Philly for years. When the supervisor position opened up at Starr Garden, the planets seemed to align and I was able to take over that role here. I am working my dream job, at my dream location where I grew up at, my son has grown up at, and I could not be happier!


What is your most rewarding, favorite part of it all?

Chloe: Watching kids grow, discovering their passion, and seeing when their eyes light up the moment they find something they may not have known about before, which becomes the thing that sparks excitement. It’s magical!  You can see it and watch it happen.

Watching their growth as a person. You see kids become a part of these programs at a young age, they grow up in these communities and you see them come so far. You see them grow into who they are, you see them overcoming difficulties and blossom into older kids. And you really see the importance of having Parks and Rec, a place to play, the programs and everything it has to offer, is to communities and kids.


Have you had kids who are older now come back to see you?

Chloe: In a sense, yes. I see and run into kids all over the city when I am out and about. Sometimes I almost barely recognize them! But they will see me and shout out ‘Hello Ms. Chloe!’ Sometimes I am running into them when it’s been years since I’ve seen them and they’re now this whole other person which is really cool to see. And a lot of times they do say thank you. It’s wonderful to be a part of that. Although you just can’t blow up a teenager’s spot and get too overzealous when they’re with their friends. You gatta keep it cool.


If there was one change you could implement in this field of work, what would it be?

Chloe: I wouldn’t say change, but something I would love to see stressed more is keeping kids involved in Parks and Rec centers and activities. You get kids at say 5 years old, they’re involved in the after-school programs, the summer camps, youth sports and so on. Then as they get older in their teen years, they can become a camp counselor. There are a good number of those who work at Parks and Rec who once were these kids. Who participated in the programs, who were a lifeguard in their teen years and now involved in various ways as an adult. I think part of what can help our city is focusing on Parks and Rec and getting kids involved more and keeping them involved. Teenagers especially. Teenagers are bored and need something they can be involved in. It can give them something to do, it can even jump start a career. Keep them from getting bored.


What made you say Yes to the Craft Coven, allowing us to do events here?

Chloe: Well, I was already familiar with the Craft Coven, with the folks involved with the Craft Coven, and I was thrilled to have them in here! I know that the Coven does a variety of different things, which is something that interests me, because each craft that is offered here brings a different crowd and new people into this building. It gives them the chance to look around, see what we do and have to offer, and from there, they get involved in some way. It could be a follow on Facebook, attending the events put on by Starr Garden and so on. And this is the kind of beneficial relationships we need as a community.


What other types of events do you have or hope to have going on here at Starr Garden?

Chloe: So I will start with the field. Our field is packed at all times with soccer, kickball and it is also used by schools when they need a field themselves. This is also for both youth and adult sports. The field allows us to run a lot of programs here, which I love to be able to provide, as field space can be hard to come by in Philadelphia. For indoors, we have an LGBTQ+ Horror Movie night (which has been a big hit and going on for over a year now), and a Queer Clay program on Monday nights. There are a couple sobriety groups that use this space, one being a LGBTQ+ sobriety group, as inclusive programming is very important to me and something I have always stressed as a professional. On Friday nights, Ms. Corinne runs a D&D program that is wonderful. Ms. Iona supervises a stellar after-school program. I run a LGBTQ+ swimming event every year at O’Connor Pool on 26th and South Street that is always a big hit. I helped at a Pride event at FDR and in general, I stay involved in the community and whatever I can help bring to Starr Garden, I do. I am always open for those connections to be made here.


As we come to the end here, is there anything else you wish to say about this place, yourself, and anything else that comes to mind?

Chloe: Whew! That’s a big question… Well, I worked a lot of jobs in my life. I was in restaurants, bars, security, construction, real estate, and I was never as happy as I have been these past several years. Not even close. I went back to school in my late 30’s. I was doing home renovations, and I was miserable. I went to Temple’s website, I went down the list of majors, got to Sports and Recreation Management and I thought I don’t know what that is, but I want to find out. So, I went back to school on a whim, and it turned into a dream come true. I never want to do anything else.

To add, when I was younger, I was a scrappy Philly kid. There were many things going on in my personal life and through community and scholastic and sport-based recreation, it kept me on track. And now I have the opportunity to provide those same kinds of programs for the youth of Philadelphia and I get the chance to pay it forward. As well as build upon that with things that I would have wanted in my youth. When I am planning programs, putting together things I want to see at my Rec Center, I think about all the things I could have used myself as a kid. One of those things being programs for the LGBTQ+ community. I would have killed for some of this stuff as a kid, especially in the 90’s. It was a bit lonely as a queer kid when I was growing up and now, I get to create spaces for kids to not be alone in. And that’s just special.

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To find out more about Starr Garden’s events and programming, be sure to follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Starr-Garden-469755263355428/


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