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Reading Rec and Friends of Reading Hospital Win State Recognition Including “Agency of the Year”

Apr 14, 2017 • by Reading Recreation Commission
Daphne Klahr (left), Executive Director, RRC; Vanessa Wanshop (right), Director of Volunteer Services, Reading Health System/The Friends of Reading Hospital

Reading, PA…Reading Recreation Commission and The Friends of Reading Hospital were recognized for Excellence in Recreation and Parks by the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society (PRPS) at their annual awards banquet held at the Hershey Lodge, Hershey, PA on March 28.

The Reading Recreation Commission won two awards this year – one was for the most prestigious award “Agency of the Year” and the second, “Out-of-School Food, Nutrition, and Healthy Lifestyle Program” that was in partnership with The Friends of Reading Hospital. 

There were only ten programs awarded with the distinction of Excellence in Recreation and Parks.  The Excellence in Recreation and Parks Awards emphasize the role of recreation and parks as an essential community service and the departments recognized in 2017 exemplified this principle. Daphne Klahr, Reading Recreation Commission Executive Director added, “the success of the healthy lifestyle program and our recognition as Agency of the Year reflects the support we receive from our staff, volunteers and community leaders with creating and running quality programming.  These awards place a positive spotlight on the great work that the Reading Recreation Commission is doing and shows how powerful community collaborations are in improving the lives of city residents.”

Reading Recreation Commission

“Out-of-School Food, Nutrition, and Healthy Lifestyle Program”

RRC Executive Director:  Daphne E. Klahr, CPRP, CPSI

The Friends of Reading Hospital: Tina Ziolkowski, FRH President;

Program Leaders:  Heather M. Boyer, Program Supervisor, Reading Recreation Commission; Emily R. Lengel, Nutrition Program Coordinator, Reading Recreation Commission; Sarah Hoffman, Nutrition Program Leader, Reading Recreation Commission; Ronda Morrison, Food Service Coordinator, Reading Recreation Commission; Camille F. Stock, Grant Administrator, Reading Recreation Commission; Vanessa Wanshop, Director of Volunteer Services – Reading Health System.

This urban based program offering of the Reading Recreation Commission was designed to create behavior change in children by teaching the importance of healthy eating and physical activity.  The Commission has a series of initiatives within this program that implement nutrition and physical activity standards, increase the opportunity for low-income communities to get healthy meals, and engage at-risk youth in a positive manner. The program also increased the number of healthy meals that children in low-income communities received during out-of-school times from 22, 000 in 2015 to 38,000 in 2016.  Additionally, programs such as Grub Club, Gardening Club, Chef Sprout, Fitness Club,  Pound ® Fitness Club, and the Step Challenge, as well as heart healthy activates help to engage at-risk youth in a fun and positive way.  The healthy lifestyle program received funding and in-kind support from The Friends of Reading Hospital (donation of a new food service van and Fresh Fruit for Kids sponsorship), Berks Community Action Program (BCAP), The SFSP and CACFP food programs, and the general fund of the RRC. 

The PRPS “Agency of the Year” Award inspires and recognizes exemplary accomplishments in positioning parks and recreation as an essential public service with meaningful community impact. The municipal park, recreation and/or therapeutic and leisure service agency to be considered provides a fresh perspective on significant parks and recreation issues, shows innovation and collaboration, and has demonstrated a high level of resourcefulness over the previous five years.  The winning agency is required to have at least one member of PRPS in order to qualify for this award and must have demonstrated the achievements, benefits and outcomes in providing public park and recreation services in the past five years. 

From PRPS:

“This year’s Agency of the Year recipient, Reading Recreation Commission, has, in the last five years, transformed itself into a vibrant and thriving public recreation agency that is improving the quality of life, and creating more opportunities, for the residents of the City of Reading. Along with being an award-winning parks and recreation agency, the Commission is also a social service agency–feeding, clothing, and helping to provide basic material needs for hundreds of city youth and their families.  In addition, the department provides life skills education to at-risk youth who might not otherwise have those opportunities.

The Cinderella story began in 2012 when the Commission began operations.  What had once been a thriving parks and recreation department throughout most of the 20th century, Reading was now faced with a small operating budget, limited program offerings, and decades of deferred maintenance.  The collaborative agencies of DCNR, the City of Reading and the Reading School District had the idea to create a Commission charged with getting the department headed in the right direction. An Executive Director (Daphne Klahr) was hired to oversee the Commission and begin a period of tremendous change and growth for the department.  Over the next five years, the operating budget increased by nearly five times and the number of full time employees went from two to ten.  In addition, 7 different buildings were renovated and improved and 20 parks were restored, increasing the credibility of the department and allowing them to raise over $700,000 in private donations to support their efforts.

The program offerings of the Commission are now of the highest caliber with well trained and dedicated staff, all driven by the mission “We Make Reading Look Good”.  Simply put, in one of the poorest cities in the nation, this department has improved the quality of life for its citizens by providing quality recreation and educational experiences in well cared for and safe facilities, a dramatic change from where they were in the not so distant past.”

For more information on the PRPS Recognition and Awards program, go to http://prps.org/development/development-awards.html.

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