For Darlene Brooks, Friday was about more than seeing her great-niece off to school for her first day as a third grader. It also marked a victory of sorts at Woodlawn Ave. and Sprague St. in East Germantown.
On April 13, a first grader was struck by a car at that intersection, which is just outside Francis D. Pastorius Elementary School.
That incident prompted worried parents and guardians to lobby the Philadelphia Police Department’s crossing-guard unit to provide coverage at the busy corner during dismissal. Some even volunteered as crossing guards out of concern.
Effort brings results
After several weeks, police who examined vehicular and pedestrian traffic determined a crossing guard was needed and started interviews for new crossing guards.
That explains why Brooks saw Diana Rhodes sporting a bright yellow vest and holding a stop-sign replica at that corner around 7:45 a.m. Friday.
“I was ready, just in case I was going to be needed out here today,” said Brooks, who sported a crudely fashioned crossing-guard vest of her own.
Upon seeing Rhodes there, she added, “I’m elated. It goes to show that it takes just one person to get the ball rolling and that when people stick to together, it may not be when you want it, but with perseverance, it will happen.”
Rhodes, who retired from the U.S. Postal Service five years ago, noted that her mother urged her to work as a crossing guard shortly thereafter.
Up until Friday, she guarded the corner at E. Penn St. and Belfield Ave., crossing students heading to and from John Wister Elementary School. She put in for this position in part because it’s close to her mother’s home.
Early in the morning, she was concerned at a lack of people to cross. She saw students a ways down Woodlawn jaywalking to get into the school yard.
Just after 8 a.m., though, foot traffic picked up right around the time the crossing guard arrived a block away at the busier intersection of Chelten Ave. (That didn’t stop a Lexus driver on a mobile phone from speeding through the crosswalk, though).
“No children got hit down there for five years,” she said of her previous post. “I do my job.”
Those would have been reassuring words for the father whom Rhodes helped cross the street with four children walking and one in a stroller.
“Keep it good,” he said. “My kids come through here. Thank you for this.”
On the Chelten Ave. side of the school, though, it quickly became clear why parents and guardians urged the city to provide a crossing guard. As nearby resident “Miss Solomon” stood watching, a mother carrying a child and walking with another hurriedly jaywalked.
“When parents do that, the kids see it and they’ll just do it too,” Solomon said. “You know you should be crossing at the intersection!”
Prior to the crossing guards’ arrival, Lawrence Casper pointed out another concern he had for students’ safety. He drew attention to the rowhome at 1002 E. Chelten Ave. He pointed to a portion of a brick wall teetering on collapse with no precautionary measures in place.
To be sure, a section of bricks protruded from the wall on which they were supposed to be flush. Casper said bricks have already fallen onto a first-floor roof and that he’s called the city’s 311 line four times and the Department of Licenses and Inspection to little avail.
“Safety first, that’s the first commandment of a union carpenter,” he said. “What’s going to happen when one of those bricks falls, bounces off the roof and hits someone’s head?”