Pepsi grant would bring a teen fitness center to Holmesburg

All Dan Yencho needs is a large, warehouse-type space and a little money — say, $50,000.

The Upper Holmesburg resident with a personal training background needs both to open what he calls the Holmesburg Power Company, an after-school fitness center for teens.

“Having a positive place where kids can go can be a great place for the community,” Yencho says.

He’s hoping the Pepsi Refresh Project can help.

No stranger himself to exercise, Yencho was running through his neighborhood over the summer to train for the Spartan Race at Blue Mountain when he bumped into his inspiration.

A teenage girl, running on the same street but in the opposite direction, stopped Yencho to ask him for pointers when she saw his gym sweatshirt. Yencho says he offered her tips, including one to be careful running by herself early in the morning.

What she told him next became a jumping off point.

“I’m 40,” Yencho said, “and we talk to our friends about how active we were as kids.” Laughing, Yencho starts in on the common when we were your age sentiments. But the teenager he met during his training didn’t have another fitness resource. She wasn’t getting the information she needed at school, or from her busy, single working mother.

Enter Yencho and his Pepsi Refresh Project.

“Pepsi is giving away millions to fund great ideas that refresh the world,” reads the description of the project. Through several grant cycles and in three categories, Pepsi is funding projects between $5,000 and $50,000.

Yencho’s Philly Fit Teens project is in the $50k tier, and through public voting, could win a Pepsi grant. He’s up against a deadline: the 10 most vote-getting projects will be chosen by the end of the month.

“It doesn’t cost you anything to cast your vote,” Yencho explains.

Here’s how voting works: You can vote for up to five projects per day, but only once a day online and once a day via text for a given project.

What would Yencho do with $50,000? For starters, he needs a space. And he’s got the perfect one in mind. His training has taken him all over the neighborhood, and the Torresdale Avenue shopping center that used to be home to Kmart is just the right size and just the right location: near I-95 and close to public transportation. It’d be a place kids could go for little to no cost.

And if all goes well, the Holmesburg Power Company would be one of many. “The Bridesburg Power Company, The Old City Power Company . . .” Yencho envisions. “[The name] could go anywhere.”

No matter if and to where he expands, Yencho anticipates having help. He’s already connected with Steve’s Club, a national nonprofit based in Pennsauken, N.J., that gives teens access to fitness training and education they can’t get anywhere else.

“It’s almost the exact same idea,” Yencho says, and the lessons learned in building Steve’s Club could be helpful for the Holmesburg Power Company.

The goal is “functional fitness,” as Yencho calls it. He recalls the obstacle course-like Spartan Race as a concept teens could appreciate: fun and challenging work that’s not just bench-pressing.

The grant cycle ends at the end of the month, and as of press time, the Philly Fit Teen project was in spot No. 186. The top 10 in the tier will get funding.

“I need all the help I can get, Yencho says. “I just think everybody wins on this.”


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