When Friends of Phillips Park, or FOPP, was created in 2017, some places in the park weren’t used much & trash could be seen. FOPP was formed to promote & preserve Phillips Park as a community resource, green space & center of activity for people who live in South Pittsburgh neighborhoods.
FOPP has organized volunteers to clean trash from Phillips Park in two-hour sprints. Volunteers were asked to wear clothes they could get dirty. Closed-toe shoes were recommended. Gloves & tools were made available. Water & light snacks were provided. Other organizations – the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy & the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh – helped to beautify the park.
People have hiked the park’s paths in free activities organized by FOPP for people of all ages.
One of the earliest events was a free Non-Profit & Arts Fair at Phillips Park in the spring of 2018. More than 20 nonprofit groups were on hand at the three-hour event. Performances by Brandon Lehman of Swiss Army, 12 Peers Theatre, Rising Voices Youth Choir & New Renaissance Theatre Company were scheduled. The all-ages event included yoga & MMA workshops.
Pay What You Want Yoga brought people to the park starting in 2018. Kara Kernan led classes suitable for people of all ages, body types & yoga experience. People practiced yoga outside on the grass using their own yoga mats or towels – although a limited number of yoga mats were made available. During 2019, yoga continued on a weekly basis.
Originally an Indian spiritual practice, yoga has been repurposed in the U.S. for physical fitness, stress relief & relaxation. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, or CDC, views yoga as a complementary health practice – an approach to wellness that is used alongside conventional medicine. The CDC reports that almost 1 in 10 adult Americans participate in yoga, which is most popular among adults who are 18 to 44 years old.
In another approach to health, Friends of Phillips Park organized a CPR class in cooperation with the Mt Oliver Fire Department. CPR, short for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, involves chest compressions & forced breathing to save the life of someone who had a heart attack.
Friends of Phillips Park brought art to the park, presenting performances of Unrehearsed Shakespeare & scheduling the CitiParks Roving Art Cart. The Art Cart allows children from ages 5 to 12 to paint, bead & sculpt in an outdoor setting. Special guest artists & entertainers may appear at the free 3-hour activity.
FOPP brought the fight against the opioid epidemic to the park with Prescription Drug Take Back Days. Opioid abuse can lead to addiction & death. Organized in cooperation with Zone Three Pittsburgh Police & the Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, Philips Park Recreation Center became a location for people to turn in prescription & non-prescription drugs. Nine large boxes of drugs were collected & destroyed.
Opioids include the painkiller fentanyl. In 2020, a jury found executives of a company that manufacturers fentanyl guilty of bribing doctors in a conspiracy resulting in people becoming addicted to the drug. The CBS news magazine 60 Minutes “exposed the playbook of sales practices that helped lead to an explosion of opioid prescriptions in the last two decades.”
During 2020, events organized by Friends of Phillips Park were affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The group joined with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to suggest that when facilities were closed & events were canceled, it was a good time to take a walk in the park & enjoy all the green space that Phillips Park has to offer.