MTWB’s 2022 Year End Recap

Watch our video and donate at mtwb.org/donate

Your donation to MTWB provides the crucial operating resources needed to continue carrying out our mission of connecting people and inspiring stewardship through the revitalization of public spaces. To accomplish our goals as an organization, we rely on support from others in the form of direct funding, partnerships, and volunteer time. Your gift has a direct impact on the projects that we are working on and the communities we are working with, today and tomorrow. 

You can easily make a donation in the amount of your choice at mtwb.org/donate or via Venmo (@MTWBFDN). While all donations are appreciated, making a large one time donation is not the only way to have a big impact. 

Our monthly giving option is an affordable way to have a long term impact. You can choose to make a monthly donation by visiting mtwb.org/donate, selecting the amount you want to donate each month, and then checking the “make this donation monthly” box.


Groundbreaking at Vare.

MTWB has made great progress on our fourth and largest park project to date at the Vare Recreation Center. Located at 26th and Morris Streets in the Grays Ferry neighborhood of South Philly, Vare has been a pivotal public space and home away from home for its community for over 100 years. While the design phase and associated budgeting process has encountered some delays over the project’s lifetime, the end result was a substantial increase in the project budget which ended up at approximately $20 million! In the spring of 2022, MTWB and its partners broke ground on the project which is now in the construction phase and slated to be completed in the Fall of 2023! 

We also completed work on the Ralph Brooks Park Mural Lot across the street from the basketball court and tot lot we built several years ago. The Mural Lot now includes an amazing play cabinet that provides storage for books and other recreational equipment. It is surrounded by some fantastic street painting that brings the entire area surrounding the park to life.

Over at Waterloo Playground, we ran into some unforeseen obstacles in the process of completing the last punch list items required before the park could open. But the good news is that the final work is underway and we anticipate that the park should be opening very soon.

Community Engagement

Before breaking ground on the Vare Recreation Center, MTWB partnered with the Vare community and Vare Advisory Council to throw a community celebration to pay tribute to the old Vare. The day was filled with food, fun, and joyful tears. Community members gave speeches, thanks, and embraced one another as they recollected on how many life events, sports practices, and memories were made together all within the walls of Vare.

On June 15th, 2022, MTWB, Rebuild, Mayor Kenney, the Vare community, Vare gymnastics and football teams, funders of the project, and many others joined together to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Vare Recreation Center. As we gathered on the outskirts of the basketball courts, speeches were made about the need for this new rec center, the collective effort to get to this moment, and how deserving the youth of South Philadelphia are of a brand new facility.  After the speeches, the Vare gymnastics team put on a stellar performance, showcasing the amazing programs that take place at Vare.  

In early August, MTWB assisted with a Tiny WPA “nature-play” installation at Northwood Park.  The installation was constructed from a cut down tree and consisted of an obstacle course made from tree stumps and large branches, along with other play activities. Northwood park was selected for this installation as part of the Make-A-Wish foundation.    

In partnership with Tiny WPA, BookSmiles, and the Ralph Brooks community, MTWB hosted a Build + Book event at Ralph Brooks Park. During the event, youth from the neighborhood, and staff from MTWB and Tiny WPA all worked together to build the play cabinet, which now resides in the Ralph Brooks Park Mural Lot. The youth learned how to use power tools, helped paint, and attached shingles. In addition, BookSmiles set-up and gave out free books to kids of all ages. After the play cabinet building was complete, Tiny WPA filled it with various games, arts and crafts, sidewalk chalk, and donated books from BookSmiles.

On September 21, 2022 MTWB and the City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy (OACCE) hosted a site visit at the Vare Recreation Center and a community meeting for the Vare community with the semi-finalist artists of the Vare Percent for Art program. These artists are competing to design the art sculpture that will be displayed outside of the New Vare. The artists discussed with community members what they truly want the sculpture to embody and represent.  

For the fall/winter of 2023, MTWB partnered with the Greater Philadelphia ACE Mentor Program to host a Youth Project Team. The Youth Project Team consists of 16 juniors and seniors from Universal Audenried Charter School, which is only a few blocks from Vare. The goal of this program is to expose these students to potential career paths in architecture, construction, and engineering. During the weekly sessions they learn about the Vare Project, MTWB, and their input on the design of future programming at the Vare rec center is gathered. 

On Monday, November 21, MTWB reached out to Smith Playground and Vare Recreation Center residents to say thank you for being great leaders and stewards in the neighborhood. MTWB partnered with Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, who had the original idea, and the Eagles who brought in ACME Markets. ACME donated turkeys and Fletcher purchased ACME gift cards. It was a great event that MTWB was able to quickly turn around for Fletcher and the neighborhoods.


Over 5,000 people showed up for our 6th MTWB Benefit Concert at the Dell Music Center on what turned out to be a very steamy July night. In addition to coming out in support of MTWB there was no question about who the crowd came to see – headliner Japanese Breakfast, and they did not disappoint. Along with openers Cate Le Bon and Yo La Tengo, Japanese Breakfast capped off a wonderful night of music and very positive vibes. On top of the great music, thanks to our event sponsors, donors, and concert attendees. We were able to raise $250,000 that will be utilized for the construction of the Vare Recreation Center!

On a beautiful September night at Citizens Bank Park, over forty different generous sponsors and their guests joined us for the MTWB Experience presented by Healthbridge. We were honored by the support we received from so many great Philly businesses and from the healthcare industry in particular. We didn’t just have a great time that night at the ballpark – we also exceeded our target goal and raised over $160,000!


Make a statement that you are the kind of person that is trying to Make The World Better by rocking one of these new MTWB wristbands

Supplies are limited so here’s the deal – we will send a few of each of these styles to anyone that donates $50 or more, or becomes a Monthly Sustaining Supporter. You can become a Monthly Sustaining Donor by making a recurring gift during our Year End Fundraising Campaign which is going on NOW. Donate at mtwb.org/donate or on Venmo (@MTWBFDN).

About the designs:

The black silicone wristband was designed by Terrence Smith, a South Philadelphia native that grew up in the neighborhood surrounding Smith Playground and Vare Recreation Center where two of MTWB’s projects are located. Terrence is the founder of Cool Fabrics Clothing Brand (@coolfabricsllc), which brings all natural, handcrafted fashion and style to the streets of Philly. His connectivity to the Smith and Vare neighborhoods, combined with his authentic Philly fashion sense, made him an easy pick to design one of our MTWB wristbands.

The orange cloth elastic wristband was designed by the well known Philly creator Blanco Rabbit (@blancorabbit_). Blanco is a freelance illustrator, animator, and designer who also DJs and produces house music. Her style is described as a “psychedelic sugar rush that embraces 90s nostalgia.” We knew we’d get something totally different from Blanco and her design did not disappoint. Wearing this wristband just makes us happy. 


Thanks To Our 2022 Sponsors Of The MTWB Experience, Presented By HealthBridge

We can’t thank all of our generous sponsors enough for their support of the MTWB Experience event. We’re honored by the support we received from so many great Philly businesses and from the healthcare industry in particular, with a special shoutout to our presenting sponsor HealthBridge. Together, we didn’t just have a great time at Citizens Bank Park — we also exceeded our target goal and raised over $160,000!

These funds are crucial to our core mission of building community and revitalizing public spaces — especially right now, as new projects are coming alive at Waterloo Playground and Vare Recreation Center. Please enjoy these memories from the big night, and thanks again to all of the sponsors below!

You can view all of the pictures in the above slideshow at our Flickr page.

All photos courtesy Industry & Commerce Image Works.


Thanks To Our 2022 Benefit Concert Sponsors!

We’d like to thank the sponsors who’ve signed on to support not just this year’s concert event at the Dell, but our work overall. They haven’t just given us money, either — they’ve shared their skills with us, they’ve taught us things, and they’ve become our friends, and an important piece of our whole non-profit community.

MTWB Benefit Concert 2022 Sponsors

Supporting Sponsors
Ballard Spahr · Neff · R5 Productions

Community Sponsors
Penn Beer · Stateside Vodka · Federal Donuts · La Colombe

Advocate Sponsors
Industry & Commerce Image Works · Loverboy Sparkling Hard Teas · Night Shift Brewing · Michelob Ultra · Philadelphia Eagles · KeVita · Green Family Foundation

Associate Sponsors 
Maestro Filmworks · Solar States · Green Town Montessori School · Liquid Death Mountain Water

To all of you — Thank you so much!


Celebrating Pride

[Photo: Philadelphia’s first Gay Pride Parade, marching east on Chestnut St. on June 11, 1972. Photo by Harry Eberlin, John J Wilcox Jr. LGBT Archives via Philadelphia LGBT Mapping Project ]


Make The World Better stands in support of the LGBTQ+ community here at home in Philadelphia and around the globe today and always. 

For decades, the LGBTQ+ community has fought to make the world a better place so that all can freely and openly live their lives. This weekend marks the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (also referred to as the Stonewall Uprisings). On June 28, 1969, Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson, a Black activist, and many others had the courage to stand against police violence. The riots that followed marked a crucial moment in the gay liberation movement and the continued fight for LGBTQ+ rights. 

Within the past few weeks in our own city of Philadelphia, we have witnessed Pride marches in support of Black Lives Matter and a call for justice for Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells and other Black trans women. These tragic deaths are a reminder of the continued violence and injustices against members of the Black and LGBTQ+ communities. As we continue to educate ourselves and support, we must remember that the struggle continues daily. 

Moreover, we are once again reminded of the invaluable contributions the LGBTQ+ community has made and continues to make in the fight for a just world.

To that end, here’s some links to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community this weekend and beyond. These are ways to learn, help and make community, but they are far from the only ways. We encourage you to check them out, share, and continue to find new ways in which to support.

To all those celebrating, Happy Pride!

DONATE to the The Okra Project, which delivers meals and resources to black trans people in crisis.

JOIN the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, which seeks to eradicate systemic, community, and physical violence that silences the black trans community from actualizing freedom, joy, and safety.

LEARN about Philly’s rich and vibrant LGBTQ history, whether it’s this article from Billy Penn, the William Way Archives, or the Philadelphia LGBT Mapping Project

READ Civil Rights Law Protects Gay and Transgender Workers, Supreme Court Rules, New York Times article 

CELEBRATE Global Pride on June 27 — this year as a virtual event!

SUPPORT Galaei, a queer Latin@ social justice organization that is currenlty providing free at home HIV testing kits.

DONATE to the Morris Home: Resources for Human Development –  supports trans- and gender-nonconforming individuals by providing human development services.


Calls To Action For Friends Of MTWB

The absolute truth that black lives matter has been core to the values of Make The World Better since day one. Like the majority of Americans, we are deeply saddened by the current situation but also know from our work and the people we work with every day that a brighter future is both possible and incumbent upon all of us to make it happen.

To that end, we offer these resources to those looking to help directly, and/or, read up on how to be a better ally both in these times and moving forward.


Support Black Lives Matter by keeping up to date with actions, and donating if you can.

Donate to the Philly Bail Fund, which is helping arrested protesters make bail.

Donate to the National Police Accountability Project. The central mission of NPAP is to promote the accountability of law enforcement officers and their employers for violations of the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

Also check out:

The Innocent Project

Campaign Zero

National Bail Out

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

And by all means, look upon your immediate community to see where your dollars can go to direct actions supporting the fight against injustice.


“Being an ally doesn’t necessarily mean you fully understand what it feels like to be oppressed. It means you are taking on the struggle as your own.

A marginalized individual cannot easily cast away the weight of their identity shaped through oppression on a whim. They must carry that weight every single day, for better or for worse. An ally understands that this is a weight that they, too, must be willing to carry and never put down.”

— from Guidetoallyship.com, an open source guide started by Amelie Lamont.

We suggest both this site and Mireille Cassandra Harper’s “10 Steps To Non-Optical Allyship.”


Pretty Good’s Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup

Sesame Street and CNN are also hosting a Town Hall this Saturday, June 6th, at 10am: “Coming Together: Standing up to Racism.”
And some more resources for parents and educators:


If you’ve got a resource you think would be worth adding to this page, please email it to theteam@mtwb.org for further consideration. Thank you!


MTWB Is Thankful For *You* This Giving Season! Here’s Some Ways To Support.

MTWB, community and kids attend the MVP Statue Dedication at Smith on 7/31/19.

Dear Friend,

We wanted to take a moment and say Happy Thanksgiving! We’re thankful for quite a lot this year, but nothing more so than the ways we’ve been able to keep the MTWB mission rolling along. So far in 2019, we’ve been proud and honored to be a part of the following:

  • In July, MTWB in partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Rec, Councilman Johnson and the City’s Percent for Art Program installed the first statue of an African-American girl on public land in Philadelphia at Smith Playground. The statue was designed, fabricated and installed by Brian McCutcheon from Ignition Arts.

  • Following the 30-year old “Stop the Violence” mural falling due to new construction on the connected building, MTWB worked with Councilman Johnson, Mural Arts, artist Felix St. Fort and community members at Ralph Brooks Park to redesigned and reinstall this historic mural. 
  • This year, MTWB began community engagement and design activities at its newest site, Vare Recreation Center. Events to date have included a kick-off event, relationship building with community members through visits to existing practices and programs, building a research and archiving studio in collaboration with Philly Photo Arts Center and Monument Lab, and conducting design workshops where community members shared priorities, goals, and themes for the building and site design.

  • Additional workshops will build upon the community’s feedback in early design workshops, offering opportunities to reimagine Vare through discussions focused on preferences such as visual language and site and building layout.

If you’re liking what you’re seeing above, we’re excited to let you know that we’ve got a whole handful of ways for you to support MTWB in this season of giving!

Donate This Giving Tuesday

The phenomenon known as Giving Tuesday continues to help non-profits and inspire folks all over, and all of us here would be honored indeed if you donated to MTWB this year. You can do that directly via our website, or on Facebook, where you can lead a fundraiser with your friends.


Our limited edition collaboration with Philly brewery Yards is now in beer stores and bars and restaurants all over the Philly area. Pick up a 4-pack for the beer lover in your life — it’s got a very holiday-friendly flavor!

Birdwatching With Barwin Eagles Watch Party Fundraiser on 12/15 at Yards Brewing Co.

Tickets are still available for this great event, but they’re going fast!

The Official MTWB Merch Shop

Lots of folks have asked where they can get the t-shirts and posters and other cool stuff from our various events. Much of it is now available at mtwbfoundation.bigcartel.com! Order today to get it in time for the holidays, and remember: 100% of these profits go towards continuing our work with communities in Philly.

Like we said, there are plenty of ways to get involved this holiday season and we appreciate any level of support! From all of us at MTWB, we wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings!





Introducing Yards’ MTWB IPA!

Yards Brewing Company and Make the World Better Foundation have joined forces for the second year in a row to launch a new limited-edition beer from Yards’ First Draft series, Make the World Better IPA. A portion of all Make the World Better IPA proceeds will benefit the Foundation. 

“It has always been a critical part of Yards’ mission to collaborate with local philanthropies who work hard to make their backyard a better place to live and work,” said Trevor Prichett, CEO of Yards Brewing Company. “We are proud to again partner with Connor Barwin and his Make the World Better Foundation on this special edition IPA. Their mission, vision, and impact on Philadelphia is a seamless fit with our company values.”  

On Friday, November 1, Yards and MTWB celebrated the beer’s launch alongside Connor Barwin and the city of Philadelphia with a special event at its state-of-the-art brewery and taproom. Inspired by MTWB’s latest work, Yards will transform their warehouse into an indoor playground to allow attendees to visualize how the funds raised from the MTWB IPA will benefit the revitalization of neighborhood parks.

“Philadelphia holds a special place in my heart. Since coming here in 2013, I’ve made it my mission to bring people together to make the world – and this city – better than how we found it, and Yards has played a big role in that,” said Connor Barwin, Founder and Board President of Make the World Better Foundation. “Our first partnership was a great start, and I’m eager to see how Philly continues to support its city with Yards’ new, limited-edition Make the World Better IPA. With a long-standing history and a brand deeply rooted in Philadelphia, only Yards can bring to life a craft brew that inspires Philly goodwill like MTWB.” 

Make the World Better IPA will be available at Yards’ taproom at the corner of 5th and Spring Garden Streets and at the following locations:


320 Market
5 O Clock Liquors
A1 Beer Barn
Ambler Beverage Exchange
Arcadia Chios The Greeks
Aston Beverage Outlet
Audubon Beverage
Avani Inc Federal Beer
B & B
Banh Mi & Bottles
Beer Baron
Beer City
Beer Love
Beer Outlet
Beer Peddlers
Bell Bev
Ben Franklin Beer Dist
Big Top Roslyn
Blue Dog
Bootleggers Liquor Outlet
Bottle Bar East
Bottle King
Bounds Beverages
Bourbon Street Wine & Spirits
Brewers Outlet
Brewers Outlet
Buy Rite Liquors
Buy Rite Liquors #7
Canals Liquor
Canals Liquor
Canals Liquor
Canals Liquor
Capones Restaurant
Cherry Hill Spirits & Gifts
Cicione Beer
Civeras Deli
Clifton Commons Spirits
Cooks Liquor
Cork & Bottle
Craft Beer Store
Docs World Of Beer
Domestic & Imported Bev
E Z Beverage
Exton Beverage Co
Frank A Smith Beverages
Frontier Saloon & Beer Store
Garden Court Deli
Geislers Liquor Store
Georges Wine & Spirits Gallery
Girard Dist
Glendale Liquors
Goffs Suds & Soda
Golden Beverage
Grahams Pub Store123 #0
H & L Beverage
Hatfield Beverage Co
Havertown Beverage
Hopewell Super Buy Rite Liquors
Hops & Grapes
Joe Burns Beverage Co
Joe Canals Discount Liquor
Kellianns Bar & Grill
Kennys Liquors
Klingers Fleetwood Grill
Kunda Beverage
Latimer Deli
Linwood Wines & Liquors
Lionville Beverage
Liquor Barn
Local 44
Lou Beverage Inc
Maro Brothers
Martins Liquors
Mckeown Beverage
Medford Wine & Spirits
Monde Market
Morgantown Beverage Co
Narberth Beverage
North Penn Beverage
One Stop Mini Market
Pappous Pizza Pub
Park Towne Beverages
Parkway Corner Deli
Pats Beverage
Pennsport Beer Boutique
Petrocks Wine And Liquors
Philadelphia Beer Company
Piermani & Son
Providence Liquors
Quick Chek Food Store – #48
Ridley Beverage
Rite Buy Beer
Rockos Beverage
Roger Wilco
Roger Wilco Deptford
Sellersville Beverage
Shoprite #273
Shoprite #518
Shoprite #579
Shoprite Liquors #758
Society Hill Beverage
Spirit Shop
Spring Garden Beverage
Steeles Wine Cellar
Super Buyrite
Super Saver
Super Value Beverage Co
Taunton Forge Liquors
The Beer Shoppe
The Beer Store
The Beer Store
The Foodery
The Foodery
Timberline Wine & Spirits
Towamencin Beverage
Township Line Beverage
Trainos Wine & Spirits
Trenton Road Take Out
Trio Cold Cuts
Valley Beverage
Villas Country Liquor Store
Vip Market
Westampton Liquors
White Horse Liquors
Whitemarsh Beverage
Williamstown Super Buy Rite
Willow Grove Beer Store
Wine Cellar
Wine Warehouse
Wine Works


  • 320 Market
  • Applecross Country Club
  • Bad Brother
  • Bar Amis
  • Barbuzzo
  • Barcade
  • Brick House Tavern
  • City Tap House
  • Dawson Street Pub
  • Devil’s Den
  • Devil’s Pocket Food & Spirits
  • Franklin Brothers
  • Frank’s
  • Good Dog Bar
  • Grey Lodge Pub 
  • Guppy’s Good Times
  • Hulmeville Inn
  • Ice Works
  • Jose Pistola’s
  • Kelliann’s Bar & Grill
  • Landmark Americana Tap & Grill – City Line
  • Landmark Americana Tap & Grill – University City
  • Le Bus
  • Liberty Union Bar & Grill
  • Local 44 – West Philly
  • Mac’s Tavern
  • McCrossen’s Tavern
  • MilkBoy Philadelphia
  • Moriarty’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
  • Old Eagle Tavern
  • Pag’s Wine Bar
  • Pub & Kitchen
  • Race Street Café
  • Sancho Pistola’s
  • Sona Pub & Kitchen
  • Southern Cross
  • Standard Tap
  • Station Tap – Drexel Hill
  • Stingers Waterfront
  • Summit Park Clubhouse
  • Tattooed Mom
  • The Abbaye
  • The Alley on High Street 
  • The Farm & Fisherman Tavern
  • The Goat’s Beard
  • The Greeks 
  • The Kite & Key
  • The Pour House – North Wales
  • The Pour House – Exton
  • Tir Na Nog
  • Tria Taproom
  • Two Stones Pub
  • Union Transfer
  • Union Jack’s Olde Glory Pub

For more information about Yards Brewing Company, please visit yardsbrewing.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Philly’s First Basketball Court Surface Murals

Jeffrey Tubbs was scrolling through Instagram one day when he came across a photo of a new basketball mural by the graffiti artist KAWS. Tubbs, a Co-Founder of MTWB, loved this image so much he was inspired to make it happen in Philadelphia.  With an enthusiastic YES from Parks & Rec Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell and Connor and the team at MTWB on board, less than two years later, Waterloo Playground in West Kensington is now home to Philadelphia’s first official basketball court surface mural.


Nike + KAWS basketball court mural at Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Lower East Side, Manhattan, NYC


Tubbs reached out to Dan Peterson, the head of LA-based nonprofit Project Backboard that has led the creation of several basketball court murals around the country. Peterson was an early and steadfast champion for advancing the court mural project at Waterloo, helping us work through many details related to the design, engagement and product application.

Painted courts aren’t just cool to look at—they actually have a positive impact by increasing both the overall and diversity of usership as compared to traditional basketball courts. In a recent interview with ESPN Outside the Lines, Peterson explained that “[On painted courts] you actually get new types of users. You get more families out there. You get more young women and girls, who feel welcome and safe playing in these spaces.”


Project Backboard court mural project in Kinloch, Missouri painted by artist William LaChance


This ethos of inclusivity directly connects to an essential goal of the larger Waterloo revitalization project: to draw in new users and make everyone in the community feel welcome at the park. Edwin Desamour, Rec Leader at Waterloo and community champion reiterated, “We are also hoping that the new court will encourage some of our more shy kids to come out and play…We are hoping that the new court and the murals will motivate them to want to come out, put their feet on that floor, run around through the bright colors, settle in and enjoy time to play and be kids.”


Waterloo Basketball Courts before construction.


First game on new Waterloo Basketball Courts designed by Carlos “Calo” Rosa


As is the case with all of MTWB’s projects, big or small, many partners were involved. For starters, you can’t use ordinary paint for a court mural; you need paint designed specifically for athletic courts with a much grittier aggregate than normal paint. Steve Illes of Sealmaster helped us get these critical details right providing technical support and on-site product application training. Court paint is much thicker than regular house paint, and is applied with squeegees rather than rollers. This type of artistic application on a sport court marks a brand new experience and direction for SealMaster, as well. Illes said, “This is absolutely something we’d love to do again. Since I showed everyone the first rendering this has been something that we’ve all been just giddy about, like it’s Christmas morning and you’re 10 years old again.”

Once we had the community at Waterloo, Parks & Rec Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell and Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez collectively excited about the concept for the court mural, and the technical support on board, we looked to Mural Arts (our partner for two previous park projects) for the art and design piece. Jane Golden, Mural Arts’ Executive Director, was immediately excited about the project, and enthusiastically recommended Carlos Lopez Rosa (Calo), a visual artists born in San Salvador and now living and working in Philadelphia.


Artist Carlos Rosa outlining his design on the court prior to color application.


Calo and project manager Corin Wilson represented Mural Arts through a community-led visioning process that started with a visit to our Waterloo Wednesday Youth Project Team Session, where Calo asked the youth “What is it about Waterloo that is special for you?” He then took those ideas and translated them into what became the final design. Mural Arts also provided technical support by way of their Operations Team led by Zambia Greene, and painting by Guild Alumni, Thomas Thompson, Tyreeah McCray and others. When asked how he feels about having his artwork on the ground rather than a vertical surface Calo responded, “I think it’s like the best way of doing art because it’s playful and fun. It’s like you use it. You use it for something fun.”



As to whether this idea marks the first of many more to come in Philadelphia, Tyreeah McCray did not hesitate, “Yeah, I actually think we should try to keep this thing going.  I think it will bring out so many people in the community.” McCray and Thomas Thompson both recently worked on painting the Oval this summer and have done a number of projects around the city including another project with Calo at Feltonville Recreation Center.  As to the impact of community engagement on the mural’s longevity Thompson feels, “It will last longer because they got a piece of it.”

The completion of this project marks the end of Phase 1 of construction at Waterloo Playground. We are very grateful to our sponsors who made Phase 1 at Waterloo possible.  These funders include Jaws Youth Playbook, HealthBridge Chiropractic + partners, William Penn Foundation, City Fitness, lululemon, LISC Home Court & the Mural Arts Program.  Phase 2 is expected to kick off later this year and will include both traditional and nature-based play elements, handball wall, pool upgrades, improved gateways and access points, gaming space, picnic areas and green stormwater infrastructure. Make sure to follow us for more real time updates!

– Claire Laver & the Team

Check out the drone photography from this project.


The Power of Relationships

By Jeffrey Tubbs

I once asked Connor Barwin why he does what he does, and after a pause, his response was, “…the relationships.”

For me, it has been a series of experiences that have contributed to my “why,” (volunteering at the Hunter School while at Friends Select, taking part in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program after college, or working with Habitat for Humanity during my days at the Redevelopment Authority to name a few). But it all culminated on Thanksgiving in 2009 while watching The Blind Side with my family. My niece Madison claims I cried, and although I will never admit that, I did lean over to tell her that I will start my own nonprofit one day soon. Seeing through the storyline of The Blind Side that sharing good fortune can lead to creating opportunities for others was the tipping point for me.

Urban Roots

Shortly thereafter, I wondered how, while struggling to start my own real estate development business, I could do my part to create opportunities for others. As a burgeoning entrepreneur, I had no money, but figured I could use my development projects as real life case studies to expose youth from our neighborhoods to the range of professions that are part of the real estate business. Providing exposure to different career paths for those who may not have had that exposure, and sharing values that have been instilled in me from my parents (work hard, be fair to people, and share what you have no matter how much you have) seemed like a perfect fit. The seeds had been planted and Urban Roots was born with the mission of leveraging for profit real estate projects as case studies for youth mentorship in planning, architecture, construction, and engineering.

After many workshops and many more newly established partnerships, it all changed one day when we connected with a passionate community leader in South Philly who was trying to give back in his own way. The day Jahmall Crandall asked for guidance in fixing some basketball hoops in his neighborhood is the day I realized that, working together with others, you can create something bigger and more impactful than you can on your own. Jahmall and I set out not only to fix the hoops, but ultimately to use renovating the basketball court and entire park at Ralph Brooks Park as the vehicle for reenergizing a community.

Then we just had to implement our lofty plan, which proved a bit more challenging than we anticipated. It became glaringly clear that even with the best intentions and after laying a solid foundation, in order to do something extraordinary, we needed a Team. We had partnerships with private foundations, funding from the City of Philadelphia, well designed plans and support from the community, but we did not have all of the resources and awareness we needed. It was an uphill battle, trusted the process. I am a firm believer that if you do the right thing and work towards something great that will benefit others, things will align to make that vision a reality, sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and hope for the best.


For Jahmall and I, this leap of faith was answered by a guy on a bike with a funky haircut, who had a similar vision to make the world a better place. Connor Barwin and his newly formed Make the World Better Foundation were looking to support a community project at the same time that our community project needed support. On April 22 nd , 2014 Connor showed up at Ralph Brooks Park on his bike and the rest is history. Over the next 4 years our two nonprofit organizations grew together. We learned from one another, challenged one another and ultimately completed Ralph Brooks Park, designed and built Smith Playground and now have begun our latest transformative project at Waterloo Playground.


After four years of a strategic partnership, Connor and I officially merged our respective organizations in an effort to make an even greater positive impact. For me, this was not easy; it was a 9 month process and at times a challenging and emotional one. Having spent 10 years building Urban Roots from scratch, we wanted to maintain our name and control of our vision. Was it the right thing to do?

After some time of reflection, and many conversations with trusted friends, partners, Board Members and supporters I realized that this was not about losing the identity of Urban Roots or ceding control. It was, as Connor pointed out, really just all about the relationships. The relationships we had built on our own, the ones we built together, the ones we would continue to foster and the people we have not yet met who will ultimately have a big impact on our work and our lives. The relationships are the most important component to what we do. We weren’t abandoning Urban Roots, we were moving forward to make it what it was always meant to be.

I truly believe we are just getting started and the sky is the limit for what we will accomplish together. I am thankful for everyone who contributed along the way and those who continue to contribute to this day, you know who you are!


Jeffrey Tubbs
Co-Founder and Director of Special Projects, MTWB


Letter from Connor Barwin

When I was a kid my dad would go on jogs in the evening after he got home from work. One evening while playing outside in the front yard I saw him running toward the house with his hands full of trash. I asked him why he had all that trash, and noticeably discouraged, he said something so matter of fact that I have never forgot it. “I don’t understand why anyone would litter where they live.”

“Where they live” got my attention. I could tell that was where his frustration came from. It was simple. It didn’t make any sense to him why someone would litter in their own neighborhood.

This moment stuck with me. It gave me an early insight into the importance of taking ownership of your community and treating it well. As I’ve gotten older, I’m convinced the reality is that it’s up to us to keep our yards, our streets, and our playgrounds clean. It is up to us to make these private spaces and shared public spaces special.

When I started MTWB five years ago ‘taking care of our neighborhoods’ was a core value and a mindset I wanted to advance. I wanted to work with communities to reimagine what their public spaces could be. Today MTWB helps bring neighbors, new and old, together to inspire stewardship through public space revitalization projects.

So far, it has been an incredible journey, with many lessons learned. We are very proud to have worked with three remarkable neighborhoods on three amazing park projects. We continue to learn and are inspired every day by the people we work along side of. The most important thing we have learned is that high-quality play equipment and safe pubic spaces for kids are crucial to their healthy development, and the well being of their neighborhood. Equally important are the people. The connections and relationships that are built throughout the process are where the magic happens. The playground is what you see but the process is what makes a place special.

I am proud of our team at MTWB. We thank everyone we have met along the way. You challenge us and make us better everyday.

As many of you know during the last five years we have worked closely with the nonprofit Urban Roots, started by Jeffrey Tubbs. I am very excited to announce that the two nonprofits have merged under the name Make The World Better Foundation. Together we hope to expand our impact.

Thank you for visiting our new website. When you can, please take a few minutes to look around and see what we have been up to the last few years. Currently, MTWB is fully engaged at Waterloo Playground with Phase 1 of construction underway. We would love to connect with all of you and work together to make the world a little better one park, one neighborhood at a time. Your feedback and ideas are always welcomed (theteam@mtwb.org).

As I’ve learned from playing in the NFL the last ten years, it takes a team to do anything great. Nothing is more important than safe and healthy environments for our children. I look forward to teaming up with you to make your neighborhood a better place.

Thank you for your interest, MTWB appreciates your support,
Connor Barwin
Founder and Board President, MTWB
Outside Linebacker, NY Giants