By Isaiah Thompson (Axis Philly) – In 2006, the North Philly Aztecs were having a tough year. The much-beloved youth football team had, against all odds, won Pop Warner Jr. Pee Wee Super Bowl the year before. Even so, they didn’t have enough money for uniforms and equipment.
And then there was the morbid state of their home field, a stretch of Hunting Park that had become a muddy swamp, forcing them to practice and play their games elsewhere.
Into this somber situation stepped Jerome Whyatt Mondesire, longtime president of the local and state chapters of the NAACP, and a well-known figure in Philadelphia politics.
Mondesire applied to a state grant agency for $100,000 to restore the kids’ field, promising to drain the field, install outdoor lighting, erect bleachers and more.
The grant, as Mondesire proposed it, would be administered by the Next Generation CDC, a nonprofit organization that he’d founded in 1999 and of which he was president.
The $100,000 would “permit [Next Generation CDC] to expand their outreach to even more deserving young people,” the grant application said.
The grant was awarded; two years later, Mondesire reported that the work had been completed.
Far from being finished, there is evidence that suggests it never started. Public officials and individuals familiar with the park and with the Aztecs say they never heard of, saw or knew of the purported renovation project.
The youth team did indeed get a restored playing field: last year, the ribbon was cut on the renewed field after a two-year, multi-million dollar rehab of the park by the Fairmount Park Conservancy and assisted with donations from Eagles’ Quarterback Michael Vick, for whom the field is now named.
But that project had nothing to do with Mondesire, the Next Generation CDC, or the NAACP and didn’t begin until in 2011—three years after Mondesire claimed to have finished essentially the same work.