105 Ruby Street
Lancaster, PA 17603
"Tornado Alley" was an idea that had been brewing for some time. For years, Mr. Porter had a rollout basketball backboard that he kept in his back yard for his own use. On occasion he would park his pick-up on Ruby Street, roll the backboard into the parking pad and practice his own shooting. He is a member of the ‘over forty’ league at the "Y" and an avid follower of McCaskey High School’s Red Tornados basketball team. He has attended every McCaskey home and away game for years. While practicing, neighborhood children would invariably come by and ask if they could shoot a few with him. They always showed disappointment when he put the backboard away for the evening. In early 2003, with Rodney Park no longer available for basketball, Mr. Porter decided to install a permanent, first class half-court facility using his parking pad and part of his back yard. There was nowhere for the neighborhood children to shoot hoops and area crime and delinquency problems were on the rise.
Spending $3,500.00, Mr. Porter had a full scale professional half-court installed at the rear of his house. He used the best of materials including acrylic coated macadam, professional
line painting and an NBA regulation 72" tempered glass backboard. With his neighbors’ blessings, he installed 12’ high fencing on 3 sides so that errant balls wouldn’t destroy any flowers or break any windows. He added colorful team banners and bench for those waiting to play. He also set-up three monitored and taped surveillance cameras (one with night vision) to check-on and record all activities on the court. On April 1, 2003 "Tornado Alley" was born and the children (from ages 7 to 20) came in a continuing stream. Mr. Porter opens the court from 9am to 7p.m. closed Sundays
With the court in full operation for a short while, Mr. Porter was notified that his 12’ fences didn’t meet the zoning codes. He’d either have to pay $200.00 to file an appeal or take down the fences that were of such importance to the orderly operation of the court. Neighbors and friends from throughout the City signed petitions on Mr. Porter’s behalf. Newspaper articles and letters to the editors all spoke in praise of his efforts for the children. At the crowded zoning hearing, even the Mayor of Lancaster spoke in behalf of Mr. Porter’s efforts to gain a variance. A great number of City residents also took the floor and to a person all commended Mr. Porter for what he had done and urged the Hearing Officers to find in his favor. They did and "Tornado Alley" continues to serve.
"Tornado Alley" is a daily buzz of happy, healthy childhood basketball activity.
Mr. Porter constantly encourages the youngsters to work hard so that they might someday play for McCaskey or whatever school they attend.
Frequent 3-point shot contests are held.
One-on-one competitions bring the best out of all the kids.
Foul shooting contests are a regular activity.
Winners can go home with a Trophy, a "Tornado Alley" T-Shirt or a new basketball.
Winners photos are displayed on the playing fence and on the tornadoalleyhoops.com website.
Many neighbors frequently contribute cases of soda and similar treats for the players.
Local high school star players stop by and give the kids tips and plenty of encouragement. They also show the children how it’s down by slam dunking and making difficult shots with ease.
Well-known college players have also stopped by and provided mini-tutorials for the up-and-coming stars.
The players take pride in keeping "Tornado Alley" clean and neat.
Neighbors have come by to help out and many have remarked that local delinquency problems have all but vanished.
Many mother and fathers have come by to praise the court activities and share that the rules and regulations of "Tornado Alley" have helped with their children’s behavior overall and provided much needed safe activity.
"Tornado Alley" has helped to more fully expose a major problem in Southwest Lancaster. There just are no good places for children to play a full game of basketball or do much of anything else that’s rewarding and fun. Without "Tornado Alley" there would continue to be a downward spiral of delinquency locally. Mr. Porter sees and hopes the City and perhaps Weed and Seed will see that one solution would be by a better use of Crystal Park. Mr. Porter proposes that Rodney Park be fixed-up for the very young children and that the landscape of Crystal Park would lend perfectly to a full-court, fenced-in basketball facility. "Tornado Alley" will continue but it can only serve a few of those in need of lots of physical activity. Crystal Park is a natural for such a facility that’s very badly needed.
Staying inbounds at Porter's court
INTELLIGENCER JOURNAL (LANCASTER, PA.)
Publication Date: May 30, 2003
Out of a love for basketball, David Porter transformed his backyard.
He erected a sturdy, in-ground pole topped by a 72-inch, tempered-glass backboard.
He put in a smooth, acrylic-coated macadam half-court.
He had the court painted blue and rusty red with bold white lines conforming to high school and college dimensions for free throws and 3-point shots.
He installed a 12-foot, chain-link fence to keep balls out of neighbors' yards and adorned the fence with NBA team flags.
He built a long, simple bench for spectators.
Oh yeah -- he invited neighborhood kids to play. That was his plan all along.
Porter, 47, who lives alone at 105 Ruby St., had a vision. It came in March after his beloved McCaskey Red Tornadoes fell to Lancaster Catholic in the league championship game.
"I have to help the kids have a good place to practice," Porter thought.
He figured if he built a nice court, young players would come. Some might go on to star for McCaskey.
It was a "Field of Dreams" thing.
"Where there is no vision, there is no future," said Porter, who on April 1 opened the court to the neighborhood.
"I come almost every day," said Anthony "Dudie" Hunter, 14, who aspires to play for McCaskey. "It's an opportunity to work on my shot."
Under threatening skies, Hunter dribbled and threw up shots in a pickup game with five other kids. Among them was Leander Toney Jr., 15, of Bay Street, who, at 6 feet 2 inches, towered over the rest.
"It's a nice court," Toney said. "People who come here come ready to play."
Eight other young people, ages 12 to 20, waited their turn. They milled about or watched from a bench at the edge of the alley behind Porter's row home. A few sipped from cans of A-Treat lemon soda Porter had on ice in a cooler.
Freddy Sanchez, 16, is a regular.
"I have friends here," he said. "I have fun."
Porter opens the court at 4:30 p.m., after he gets off work at John L. Porter's Used Furniture. He closes it at 9 p.m.
From inside his home, Porter can monitor what's going on. A microphone picks up the chatter, and three cameras, one with night vision, watch from on high. Porter keeps a videotape rolling.
Parents like the supervision. They feel their kids are safer playing at Porter's court than at a park.
"It keeps my sons off the street," said Missy Williams, 34, mother of Damar, 14, and Leequan, 13. "They do their homework and chores, and then they come here to try to better themselves."
From time to time, Porter sponsors contests. Kids compete in free throws, 3-pointers and one-on-one games.
"I won a WNBA basketball and $5," said Jennez Middlebrooks, 16, of Coral Street, who made 10 of 15 free throws.
Porter posts pictures of the winners on a fence.
"I'd really like to see this stay," said Jose Diaz, 43, a neighbor whose sons, Donald, 15, and Antonio, 18, play. "There's no drugs, no violence."
Porter pointed out that acts of juvenile delinquency are more likely to occur between 2 and 8 p.m. He believes his court counters crime.
"You need to get the kids busy after school," he said. "It's a no-brainer."
A lot of people think Porter, who invested $3,500 in the court, deserves an award. What he got was a zoning citation.
He opened a certified letter from the zoning officer last Friday notifying him that his fence exceeds the six-foot limit and that prior approval is required for all courts.
Porter should have checked with City Hall before building the court. Now if he wants to keep the kids playing, he's going to have to persuade the zoning hearing board.
On Wednesday, he paid a $200 fee to schedule a July 7 hearing.
"Without the fence, the court's gone," Porter said. "I'm sure we'll work it out."
In the meantime, the games go on.
A mustachioed man who plays in a YMCA over-40 league, Porter blew a whistle and cleared the court for a one-on-one contest.
It was Hunter versus Edwin Delgado, 15. The boys played hard. Porter cheered.
"They're unbelievable, so great to watch," Porter said. "I love this game."
City zoning board will be the referee when owner appeals the building of a backyard basketball court that has been a slam-dunk success with youth.
SUNDAY NEWS (LANCASTER, PA.)
Publication Date: June 15, 2003
They say Dudie is the real deal.
Photo By Dave Porter
"The kid is one of the best I've seen," said David Porter, who lives at 105 Ruby St. in Lancaster and runs a basketball half court in the alley behind his house where Dudie, also known as Anthony Hunter, 14, plays a lot of ball. "He's like a little Allen Iverson."
Most sunny days, you can find Dudie and lots of other kids shooting hoops at Porter's court. That could end soon, though, if the city orders Porter to tear the court down.
While Porter created, with his own money, a half court that is by far the nicest in the West End, and possibly the entire city, he didn't get zoning approval before he installed the permanent glass backboard, the fences draped with pro basketball banners, the sophisticated video and sound system that allows him to monitor the court when he's inside the house and the fences that set it off from the rear of neighbors' homes.
"The city says I'm promoting basketball," said Porter, 47, a lifelong city resident and diehard baskeball fan. More specifically, the city has charged him with two violations of its zoning ordinances: constructing a basketball game court without zoning approval, and installing illegal fences.
He may have to tear the fences down; he may have to rip the court out.
The zoning hearing board will consider the case on Monday, July 7. Porter has a petition with hundreds of names backing him and likely will arrive at the hearing at Southern Market Center with dozens of supporters.
The kids who play at the court say it would be a shame if the city punished Porter. He's doing the city's job, providing kids with a place to play. Porter ought to get a a medal, they say, not a cease-and-desist order.
"He did all this just for us," said a 16-year-old boy who asked that he only be identified as Turtle.
"This court keeps me out of trouble." It was after Lancaster Catholic High School dropped McCaskey, Porter's alma mater, in the Lancaster-Lebanon boys' basketball championship in February that Porter had this idea.
For decades, there had been somewhat of a makeshift court behind his Ruby Street home, not 25 yards from First Street. But Porter, who helps run the family business, John L. Porter Furniture on Columbia Avenue, figured he might sink a couple bucks into the court and make it a really nice place to play. Then the kids in the neighborhood, would have a decent place to shoot hoops; the only other nearby courts were in Rodney Park. Those hoops were in disrepair, and, due to problems at the park, were taken down last week.
Giving neighborhood kids a place to practice, Porter figured, ultimately might improve McCaskey's boys basketball team.
So he dug out the checkbook, investing about $3,500 (he got a deal on the paving from a sympathetic local contractor). He hooked up the surveillance cameras, one of them with night vision, to his detailed, high-end home entertainment system. The court opens every day when he gets home from work, sometime after 5 p.m.; a rope and "no trespassing" sign keep it off-limits until then, and Porter says the kids have respected his rules. He keeps it open until 9 p.m., one hour before curfew. He keeps a cooler stocked with free sodas for the kids.
He stages free-throw contests, one-on-one and three-on-three contests, and has started calling the results into the newspapers. With a digital camera, he takes pictures of the winners, then distributes glossy 8-by-10 photos of the "champions." A former local basketball coach gave him a box full of old basketball trophies; he hands them out to the winners, too.
It was all going swimmingly until city zoning officer John Dombach stopped by one day in May. Dombach said he'd gotten a complaint, so he went to check it out.
Porter thinks he knows who complained and has since mended fences with that neighbor. But what Dombach saw when he stopped by undeniably violated city zoning ordinances.
Because the one thing Porter forgot to get, while planning and building his dream court, was permisson from the city.
By itself, that violated Section 051 of the city's zoning ordinance, which requires zoning approval to construct a court. According to the cease-and-desist order sent by Dombach, Porter either needs to get zoning approval after the fact, or remove the court.
Then there are the fences. Porter has a 10-foot-high chainlink fence - the maximum height permitted by the city ordinance is 6 feet - and has a second, smaller, wooden fence installed a mere inch or so in front of the chainlink fence; that violates a city ordinance which requires at least 5 feet of separation between fences.
Porter must either remove the fences or modify them to meet zoning guidelines.
Porter appealed to the zoning hearing board. If the board upholds the order, and Porter doesn't comply, a district justice could order Porter to pay a fine of up to $500, plus additional fines for every day the violation continues. City zoning hearing board chairwoman Margaret Concannon said she didn't know about Porter's court and doesn't want to know about it before the July 7 hearing - she doesn't want to become predjudiced by news stories such as this one. Rather, she and other board members will consider the evidence, and render a decision based on the facts.
But she did say that the board, on occasion, grants zoning approval after the fact. It's just as likely to uphold the original citation.
"There are absolutely a lot of people who just don't know" that zoning rules exist and get angry when they find they've run afoul of them, she said. "A lot of people think (the regulations) are a pain in the neck, but they are there for a reason," chief among them public health and safety.
Porter doesn't see how his court is harming the public's health or safety. If anything, he said, he's helping it.
Others agree. After Intelligencer Journal columnist Jeff Hawkes wrote about Porter's court last last month, he started getting donations from people in the mail. Others donated cases of soda for Porter to pass out to the kids.
He's sunk the money back into the de facto park, buying even more sodas. "Now everybody in the neighborhood is my friend," said Porter. Even one woman who lived nearby and complained, intially, that balls were bouncing off the side of her house, and that empty soda cans were left on the street outside her door.
Porter wrote her a letter, installed a fence on the side of her building, and asked the kids to be more careful with the cans. The woman has since donated three cases of soda and added her name to the 150 or so others on the petition asking officials to keep the court.
Last Tuesday, as the mercury crept into the 80s, nearly two dozen kids hung around the court, playing ball or just sitting on a bench, shooting the breeze, waiting for a turn - Porter makes sure everyone gets a turn.
The kids said they have nowhere else to go to play ball. Most live in the neighborhood, and their parents like the idea of them being close and under supervision.
"It keeps me entertained," said Jerry Maldonado, 13, who moved to the West End in November and has made a lot of friends at the court. "It's a well-designed court ... it's the only nice one around."
With the removal of the courts in Rodney Park, it's the only one around, period. If it goes, suggest the kids, they might have to find something else to do. And it might not be as innocuous as basketball.
"It's a great thing for the neighborhood," said Porter. "Everybody loves it.
"I just don't understand why (the city) would complain about it.
Don't fence him out
Red Tornado fan fights red tape over court
LANCASTER NEW ERA (LANCASTER, PA.)
Publication Date: July 5, 2003
Page: B-1Keith Schweigert
Photo By Tom Amico Lancaster New Era
All David Porter wanted to do was give the kids in his neighborhood a place to play basketball.
It was never his intention to take on city hall.
But that's precisely what happened to the avid McCaskey fan when he turned his back yard into a place where hoop dreams come true.
Back in February, after his beloved Red Tornado fell to Lancaster Catholic in the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship game, Porter decided to spruce up the court behind his home on 105 Ruby St.
If more prospective players had a place to hone their skills, he reasoned, then it might pay off with a state title for the Tornado somewhere down the road.
"In the last five years, I've been to every McCaskey game -- home and away," says the 1974 McCaskey alum. "They've had such an incredible run. It's been the best thing ever to happen in Lancaster. I wanted to bring some of that excitement here."
So Porter sank $3,500 of his own money into a renovation project. He replaced his worn-down backboard with a permanent glass board. He resurfaced the macadam and painted it with a regulation-length 3-point arc and a free throw shooting area.
He fenced the whole thing in to prevent stray balls from escaping into neighbors' yards and designed a state-of-the-art surveillance system so he could monitor the court from inside his home.
Then he threw open the gates and invited the kids in his neighborhood to come and play. The court is open from the time Porter arrives home from his job at the family's furniture store -- about 4:30 p.m. -- until 9 p.m.
The closing time is strictly enforced, Porter says, so the neighbors won't be upset by late-night games.
Porter estimates that between five and 10 kids show up at this court nightly. That includes two teens -- Anthony Hunter and Edwin Delgado -- who hope to play for the Red Tornado next year.
"I thought I was doing something good for the community," Porter says.
Unfortunately, Porter never thought to get a permit from the city's zoning board when he started his project.
And sure enough, a few weeks after the court opened, the city came calling. Porter received a ceast-and-desist order from the zoning board. He had a week to take down the court or face a $500 fine.
Porter decided to fight the ruling and filed an appeal with the zoning board. He will meet with the board Monday at 4 p.m. at the Southern Market Center.
"I never thought to ask the zoning board," Porter says. "I didn't think I had to. There's been a backboard up in our back yard since 1965 -- and it's been macadamed since the '70's.
"All I did was resurface it, paint the lines and put up the fence."
The city doesn't see it that way. The zoning board ruled that Porter's court violates Section 051 of the city's zoning ordinance, which says there must be zoning approval to build a court.
The 10-foot-high fence that surrounds the court is also an issue. According to city zoning laws, the maximum height allowed for a chainlink fence is six feet.
Porter also has a six-foot wooden fence at the base of the chainlink boundary, which violates a city ordinance requiring at least five feet of space between two fences.
The second violation seems especially nit-picky. While there are two fences around Porter's court, they are almost seamlessly attached.
"(The wooden fence) soundproofs the chainlink fence," Porter explains, throwing a ball against it to demonstrate. "I didn't want the sound to disturb anyone."
Porter will get a chance to plead his case at Monday's meeting. He'll present the zoning board with a petition signed by hundreds of supporters, and he expects to a crowd to pack the meeting room.
"I'm hoping they'll see this is a good thing and rule in our favor," he says.
Porter is not alone. In the last few weeks, newspaper articles about his plight have mobilized a small army of supporters.
"It's been amazing," he says. "People stop by here all the time to watch the kids play and to lend their support. Everybody wants to know what they can do to help. People are writing letters to the editor. They buy sodas for the kids. They drop off donations.
"We even had a couple of bike cops stop by the other day to shoot around and talk to the kids. They said it's nice to see kids with something to do."
Porter has received support from as far away as Miami, Fla., where a former city resident who followed stories of his plight on the internet donated three dozen T-shirts emblazed with "Tornado Alley" logos.
Porter awards the shirts to winners of the weekly 3-point shooting and slam dunk contests he runs at the court.
Brewers Outlet recently donated five cases of soda, which Porter put in the well-stocked cooler he provides for refreshments. Any other donations he receives are put back into the court.
Former McCaskey stars Dustin Salisbery and Akeem Washington visited the court last week after learning about it. They gave neighborhood kids a basketball clinic and staged a slam dunk contest for their entertainment.
"The kids couldn't believe it," Porter says. "It was like watching the NBA in your back alley."
While the city zoning board is just doing its job, here's hoping that some sort of compromise can be reached to keep Porter's court open.
As he points out, if you don't give kids something to do, they'll find something on their own.
And what they find is not always positive.
"I'm not mad at anybody," says Porter. "The board's just doing what it's supposed to do. But If they make me take this court down, it will really stink.
"Kids around here have no place to play basketball. None of the parks around here have courts any more. What to they expect the kids to do in the summer? Throw pennies? Play tiddlywinks?
"Maybe I'll rip the whole thing down and put in a hopscotch court. The kids would love that."
Court will be judged
SUNDAY NEWS (LANCASTER, PA.)
Publication Date: July 6, 2003
When David Porter goes before the city's Zoning Hearing Board Monday, he won't be going one-on-one.
In fact, the Ruby Street resident who spent thousands of dollars to build a state-of-the-art basketball court behind his home, and ran afoul of city zoning ordinances in doing so, is likely to have a crowd of supporters in his corner. Possibly, hundreds of them.
"I don't know if there'll be room for everybody" in Southern Market Center, said Porter, who hopes a large turnout will convince city officials that the court, which he calls "Tornado Alley," should be allowed to stay.
There's no guarantee, though, that Porter's hoop dream will come true.
In early June, city zoning officer John Dombach, acting on a complaint, visited Porter's home and discovered the paved and painted half-court, featuring a high fence draped with NBA team banners. It was impressive.
It was also illegal, for while Porter sunk some $5,000 of his own money into the court, he never received permission from the city to build it. Dombach cited Porter with two violations of the city zoning ordinance, one for failing to obtain the city's permission before building it, the other for installing two fences too close to one another.
The city could force Porter to remove the fences and the court and could fine him for every day he fails to do so.
But Porter and his supporters hope the zoning board opts for a lighter touch. In fact, some of Porter's supporters, and there are many of them, agree with his contention that the court has given neighborhood kids something to do and, thus, kept them out of trouble.
"I'm not faulting the city for responding to complaints," wrote one supporter in a letter to the editor published in last weeks' Sunday News. "But instead of gratitude that David Porter is offering a supervised alternative, (the city has) threatened to force him to tear down his court. That seems counterproductive to me."
Porter says others have shown their appreciation by donating cases of soda for him to hand out to the kids who play ball at his court; a Florida woman who read about Porter donated three dozen "Tornado Alley" T-shirts for him to hand out to the kids.
And since his picture appeared in the newspaper, he's become a celebrity. "I went to the Brewer's Outlet the other day," Porter said. "The guy recognized me and gave me five cases of soda."
Former McCaskey High School standouts Dustin Salisbery and Akeem Washington also showed up and shared some "hoop secrets" with neighborhood kids and staged a dunk contest, Porter said.
Neighbors, meanwhile, have adorned their windows with flyers that urge people to turn out for the 4 p.m. zoning hearing Monday.
Porter said he's ready for the tip-off.
"People say, you can't fight city hall," he said.
"I say, let's get ready to rumble."
Slam dunk: Zoners OK backyard basketball court
LANCASTER NEW ERA (LANCASTER, PA.)
Publication Date: July 8, 2003
Section: LOCAL NEWS
The atmosphere was festive in "Tornado Alley."
As a group of kids swept water from a passing shower off the half basketball court behind his home on 105 Ruby St., David Porter was ordering pizzas and soda for a victory celebration.
Neighbor Edwin Laboy shouted to a passing bystander, "Tell the whole neighborhood -- we won!"
Porter and his supporters were in a jubilant mood following Monday's meeting with the Lancaster Zoning Board. After a one-hour hearing, the board voted unanimously to give Porter's court a special zoning exemption, allowing it to remain open.
Porter was cited in April for building a court without city approval. He was given a week to take down the court, or face a $500 fine.
But on Monday, a parade of city officials, concerned neighbors and enthusiastic youths -- about 40 to 50 in all -- gathered to ask the zoning board to ignore its own laws and make an exception in Porter's case.
Lancaster Mayor Charlie Smithgall led the way.
"I think what Mr. Porter is doing is great for the kids," said Smithgall, who owns a pharmacy on Columbia Avenue near Porter's neighborhood. "He's given them a structured environment in which to play."
City parks superintendent Jeff Zimmerman and public works director Charlotte Katzenmoyer also spoke in favor of the court.
"With the tightening budget, the burden on our department to provide facilities is ever-increasing," said Katzenmoyer. "Facilities such as this one, which are supported and maintained, are very important to the city."
Zimmerman said his department cannot do everything, and saluted Porter for taking the initiative.
"I feel that this is part and parcel of what we're trying to do for the community," he said. "...I think (Porter's court) is a wonderful model that could be replicated throughout the city."
Many of Porter's neighbors also spoke in support.
"When I moved to this neighborhood, the kids had nowhere to go," said Laboy, who lives on 113 Ruby St. "What Dave has done is built a safe haven. As a neighbor, I can see the kids have somewhere safe to go. Dave has done something wonderful, and we need to support it."
Robin Hayes-Toney, who lives nearby, said trash around the court is not a problem, because the kids do a great job of picking up after themselves.
"The alley is cleaner than the streets," she said. "Nobody wants to get in trouble and lose their privileges."
No one in attendance spoke out against Porter's court at the hearing.
In Monday's ruling, the board said Porter could keep his court open if he supplied adult supervision, defined the hours of operation from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., made sure trash was picked up, installed no lighting other than the security lighting already in place and had no outside sound system besides the intercom he currently uses.
"It's great," said Porter after the meeting. "I'm relieved that the whole thing is over, and that the kids can play ball. That's what all this was about. So much fuss over nothing more than child's play."
Porter ran afoul of the zoning board in April, when he decided to renovate the court that has stood behind his home since 1965.
Porter replaced the worn backboard with a permanent, tempered glass model. He resurfaced the playing area, painting in free-throw and 3-point lines. He installed a state-of-the-art video surveillance system to monitor the court from his home and surrounded the structure with a 12-foot chain-link fence.
A second, 4-foot wooden border was added to the base of the original fence to deaden the sound of basketballs hitting the chain link.
Porter sank about $3,500 of his own money into the project, but failed to get zoning approval first. The fencing violated a city ordinance that allows a maximum fence height of 6 feet. The city also requires 5 feet between two fences.
The board issued a cease-and-desist order a few weeks after the court opened.
Porter appealed the order, setting up Monday's hearing.
Smithgall was pleased that the board reversed its decision.
"I'm glad that the zoning board found in favor of the basketball court with the conditions as stated," he said. "It makes sense and I support it."
Zimmerman was also pleased.
"It's an excellent decision," he said. "It empowers people to make some positive changes in their neighborhoods. What Mr. Porter has done is exactly what community governments have tried to do and found themselves failing."
Laboy agreed. He said his neighborhood changed for the better as soon as the court opened.
"What Dave has done is made this community different -- and in a positive way," he said. "The change happened almost overnight. Now we don't have to worry about where our kids are at night -- they're here. This is a great place for the whole neighborhood, and what makes it great is that everybody had a part in it.
"What happened here today was not about Dave. It wasn't about the fence. It was about the kids."
Zoning board reverses foul call
Mayor, neighbors rally around city ball court
INTELLIGENCER JOURNAL (LANCASTER, PA.)
Publication Date: July 8, 2003
Photo by Suzette Wenger Lancaster Intelligencer Journal
With friends, neighbors and city officials supporting him, David Porter's fight to keep open his backyard basketball court for kids was a slam dunk.
Lancaster Zoning Hearing Board Monday unanimously granted a special exception to Porter, who had been cited for zoning violations after sprucing up his Ruby Street basketball court without first getting city approval.
The basketball court had been on the property since 1965, when Porter's father built it for him. It has been paved since the 1970s. Over the years, it has been a gathering place for young people.
In April, Porter spent about $3,500 to renovate the court. He replaced the old backboard with a permanent glass one, resurfaced the macadam and painted it with a regulation-length 3-point arc and a free-throw shooting area.
He then ringed the area with a 12-foot chain-link fence to prevent balls from bouncing into the neighbors' yards, and an attached 4-foot wooden fence to deaden the sound of balls hitting the chain link.
The fencing, however, was in violation of a city ordinance that allows a maximum fence height of 6 feet. Also, the city requires 5 feet between two fences. As a result, Porter was issued a cease-and-desist order and given a week to take down the court or face a $500 fine.
Porter appealed the violation.
In granting the approval Monday, the board required that Porter define the hours of operation as 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; provide adult supervision for youths on the court; install no external lighting other than the security lighting already in place and no outside sound system except for the intercom Porter currently uses; and keep the area free of trash and litter.
Porter, accompanied at the hearing by about 25 neighbors and youths, many carrying basketballs, was excited about the decision.
"I feel great," he said after the decision. "Unbelievable. All this over child's play. I've been waiting two months for this. It's a relief. Let's play ball."
The meeting had the unique distinction of having top city officials line up to support a man who was in violation of city codes.
That support was led by Mayor Charlie Smithgall, who urged the board to grant the special exception, calling it "good for the city and good for the children."
After the decision, Smithgall said, "I'm glad the zoning board found in favor of the basketball court with the conditions as stated. It makes sense, and I think that's the way he's been running it.
Smithgall also said the court solved problems he'd been having with youths hanging out in the parking lot of his Columbia Avenue pharmacy.
"He's taken them away and given them a structured environment in which to play," Smithgall said.
Charlotte Katzenmoyer, the city's public works director, said private play areas like Porter's play an important role in the community and should be encouraged. The city, she said, doesn't have the money to provide the facilities to meet the needs of the city's youth without hiking taxes.
Jeff Zimmerman, the city's parks superintendent, said when he heard what Porter was doing for the youths, he realized "this is part and parcel with what we are trying to do as a community, and that is to build neighborhoods."
He said government can't do it all.
"It's great to see the community step forward and do this for its young people," he said. "They are our future. This is where we are going, and if we are unable or unwilling to do it, I think we'll set a course where we won't be very pleased with the outcome."
He called the basketball court "an exceptional opportunity for the city" and a "wonderful model that can be replicated" throughout the community.
Porter also got overwhelming support from his friends and neighbors, including petitions with "a couple of hundred" signatures.
Michael Rowen, a member of the Lancaster school board, talked about the need for kids to have mentors.
"What we have here in David Porter is a classic example of someone mentoring these kids," he said.
Robin Hayes-Toney said the basketball court has had "a positive impact" on her neighborhood and feels secure when her children are playing there.
"I know where they are, and I know they're safe," she said.
David Porter a winner in court of public opinion
INTELLIGENCER JOURNAL (LANCASTER, PA.)
Publication Date: July 10, 2003
Here's how David Porter celebrated:
He shouted, "Party time!" He ushered a dozen kids carrying basketballs out of City Council chambers. He waited as they squeezed into the bed of his Dodge Ram 250. He took them on a short trip under muggy skies back to Ruby Street, where he tooted the horn.
Then everyone scrambled from the pickup to Porter's back yard.
Without fanfare, but with plenty of yelling, jumping and maneuvering for rebounds, boys and girls of all shapes, sizes and colors started launching basketballs at the hoop. It was just as they have done since April 1, the day Porter opened his immaculately paved, painted, accessorized and decorated half-court and invited the neighborhood to come play.
But there was one big difference Monday evening. The court was no longer in legal limbo. A three-member zoning hearing board had listened to Porter's request to cut him some slack so that he could continue to offer kids a supervised place to work on their shots.
Facing two dozen supporters, including Mayor Charlie Smithgall, and hearing no dissent, the board bestowed its blessing upon Porter and his court, which he has taken to calling Tornado Alley for his beloved McCaskey High School Red Tornado.
"This is the most exciting day of my life," Porter exclaimed later.
In the end, it didn't matter that Porter had enclosed three sides of the court with a 12-foot, chain-link, wood-reinforced fence, twice the legal height, to keep balls out of neighboring yards, or that he had failed to get the city's permission before opening his court to the community.
In citing Porter with the violations, zoning officer John Dombach was just doing his job, and in granting Porter exceptions to the zoning ordinance, the zoning hearing board did its.
Except for the fact that the hearing cost Porter $200 -- on top of the $3,500 he spent on the court and video-monitoring equipment -- the regulatory rigmarole performed an unexpected public service.
It put a spotlight on the fact that one person can make a difference.
Not that Porter put it that way.
A trim, mustachioed bachelor who was sporting a worn cap, shorts and a Tornado Alley T-shirt, Porter, 47, of 105 Ruby St., who works at John L. Porter & Sons Furniture Co., didn't show up for the hearing ready to give the board a fancy speech.
He just handed over a petition signed by a couple hundred supporters, pulled out a photograph of the court and answered the board members' questions with a minimum of words.
Asked by board solicitor George Cook if he had anything else to say, Porter said, "Let's play ball."
Thirteen others, however, had a lot to tell the board. Eddie Laboy, of 113 Ruby St., said Porter has created "a safe haven" for his sons. Stephanie Sands, of 115 Ruby St., said she has seen only positive behavior on the court. Robin Hayes-Toney, who lives in the 600 block of Bay Street, said, "I think it's the best thing that could happen on that street."
When I asked Hayes-Toney to elaborate, she explained that Porter's investment in the neighborhood and the way he monitors the children's behavior -- no littering, no foul language -- helps homeowners feel better about where they live, creating a "ripple effect" that will be good for everyone's property values.
But it wasn't just neighbors who came out in support of Porter. The mayor, the city's public works director, the city's parks supervisor and a school board member all sang his praises.
With recreation choices limited because of tight city finances, wouldn't it be great, parks supervisor Jeff Zimmerman said, if Tornado Alleys were replicated across the city?
School board member Michael Rowen pointed out it's not just Porter's facility that's useful. His positive presence serves to mentor young people.
The hearing lasted close to an hour, and not a single negative word was uttered. It was one of those times that make you think almost anything is possible.
Back at the court, as a free-for-all shootout was going on in his banner-bedecked court, Porter called Pizza Hut on his cell phone and ordered four cheese pizzas and soft drinks.
"You take VISA or Mastercard?" he asked. "Great."
Porter didn't mind picking up the tab. He's a guy who just keeps giving.
Building a basketball court of their dreams
McCaskey High fan creates a facility in his back yard for Lancaster youth
By UMN By JEFFREY MARTIN
Thursday, July 10, 2003 - Dispatch/Sunday News
Building a basketball court of their dreams McCaskey High fan creates a facility in his back yard for Lancaster youth We need more fans like Lancaster's David Porter.
Photo By Dave Porter
A 1974 graduate of McCaskey High, Porter is an avid supporter of Red Tornado boys' basketball. Ask him about the upcoming season -- which doesn't start for another five months or so -- and he spits out the names of Edwin Delgado, a three-point marksman, and 14-year-old Anthony "Dudie" Hunter, whom he labels an Allen Iverson clone.
You might say he's obsessed, but he would say he's just fed up.
He's tired of McCaskey falling short of a state title. He's tired of losing to the same teams, although he's happy the Red Tornado continues to beat York High.
So, instead of talking or complaining about it, as most fans do, he did something about it.
He created a basketball court in his back yard at 105 Ruby Street for the children in the city to develop their skills.
"You have to start the kids early," said Porter. "The kids in the suburbs, they all have courts. But the kids in the city ... I figured I'd give the city kids a place to play."
The 47-year-old Porter, who owns a used furniture store, spent approximately $5,000 -- all his money -- in refurbishing the court. A chain-link fence was installed. The surface was re-done. A new backboard, just like the ones used in high schools, college and the NBA, was brought in.
He named it "Tornado Alley," and he watches over it from the captain's chair in his living room. There are a couple of security monitors so he can keep an eye on the court. He videotapes each day's action, which is helpful in clearing up any disputes over court records such as free-throw or three-point shooting. He also uses an intercom to communicate to the players.
The kids have come out in droves, some honing their jump shots, like Delgado. Some are learning the game, dribbling a basketball for the first time. Others are simply hanging out, which isn't a crime.
But you wouldn't know that from the way the city responded. It tried to shut down his court, saying he was in violation of several city ordinances, including the height of a fence (six feet is allowed). A cease-and-desist order was issued to Porter -- if the court wasn't dealt with, i.e. taken down, in a week, he would be slapped with a $500 fine.
Porter wasn't ready to give up on his court and, more importantly, the kids. So, he appealed, bringing 25 children, all toting basketballs, with him to a meeting with the Lancaster Zoning Hearing Board.
It worked. The city, specifically Mayor Charlie Smithgall, said the court was a positive for the city and the kids. It allowed Porter to continue with the court, unimpeded.
"I thought it was a good move," said Porter. "The city's parks superintendent said we need more people to do stuff like this. We need private funding to help out, so we don't have to raise taxes."
He's a fan, for sure, making an sizeable statement.
Five thousand dollars, out of his own pocket.
We need more like him. The kids need more like him. Jeffrey Martin is a sportswriter for The York Dispatch/York Sunday News.
A net gain from a basketball court
SUNDAY NEWS (LANCASTER, PA.)
Publication Date: July 13, 2003
It may have taken a full-court press, but at least the city's zoning board did the right thing last week by allowing David Porter to run his basketball court.
At a time when quality of life is a major issue in Lancaster's revitalization, and city residents say the biggest turnoffs to city living are nuisances like noise and litter, Mr. Porter is doing something about it.
He deserves Lancaster's support, and finally he got it.
Mr. Porter, a basketball fan, fixed up a court in his back yard off Ruby Street, with about $3,500 of his own money, and opened it to neighborhood kids. He says he was looking for a way to keep them occupied and, perhaps, to train the next generation of McCaskey High School Red Tornado stars.
But he failed to get permission from city officials and was cited for zoning violations.
At a hearing last week attended by his neighbors and kids who play in "Tornado Alley," the zoning board agreed to an exception allowing the court to stay open, with some fairly reasonable restrictions on lights and noise.
Mr. Porter made a mistake, but, we think, an honest one, in not checking with City Hall before playing ball.
There are times when rules are made to be broken. This is one of them.
The southwest neighborhood between Manor Street and Columbia Avenue is teetering on the edge of major trouble. Violence is on the rise; gun-shots are more frequent; drug dealing is a growing problem.
People who live there, in what has been a quiet and family-friendly part of town, are frustrated. And scared.
What Mr. Porter has done with Tornado Alley is give kids something constructive to do that won't lead them into trouble-and won't cost the city a dime.
City leaders, including Mayor Charlie Smithgall, acknowledged that by testifying on Mr. Porter's behalf at the zoning hearing.
Instead of expecting the government to do something for his neighborhood, Mr. Porter did it himself. That kind of citizen initiative deserves credit
Hoop dreams can come true.
A Positive Step for the Northwest Neighborhood
SUNDAY NEWS (LANCASTER, PA.)
Publication Date: September 7, 2003
Build New basketball Court at Crystal Park
Turn Rodney Park into
playground for younger' children,.
Recently I had the great good fortune to get the OK from the City Zoning folks to allow the neighborhood children to continue using the basketball half-court that is installed behind my house on Ruby Street. We call it "Tornado Alley". So far it has been a smashing success, far beyond my original expectations. This small half-court is so popular with so many children that they literally have to wait in line to get a chance to play.
This success points up one thing very clearly. There is a crying need for a full-scale, fenced-in basketball court in this Northwest area of the City. Others and myself have looked over many possibilities to solve the problem of so many youngsters, boys and girls in their early to late teens having nowhere to really play a good game of basketball. The best of all possible locations is Crystal Park. It’s my suggestion, to the Mayor and the Crystal Park area residents, that a new court be constructed at Crystal Park for the teens and that Rodney Park, just a few blocks away, be set-up for the younger children and toddlers. Crystal Park is landscaped in such a way that the construction of a quality court would be an easy job; it’s flat unlike the sloped areas of Rodney Park.
I have heard that some neighbors see the reasoning behind this idea and yet others are afraid that it might be an attractant for drug users and troublemakers. From my Tornado Alley experience, nothing could be farther from the truth. Some have complained of drug use at Crystal Park, glass strewn everywhere, muggings, threats from kids hanging-out in the area and even talk of "gang" activity. This last ‘problem’ relates to a small group of very young children (eight, nine and ten-year-olds) who have given themselves a no-doubt TV inspired name, "The Young Assassins". From what I have been able to learn, the groups’ most dangerous act has been to spray paint their gang name in a couple of places. My information comes from boys and girls that know them and who play at Tornado Alley. They are little kids with a scary name.
If Crystal Park had a well constructed, fenced and locked basketball court operated under the supervision of caring adults and/or City workers, there would be no more drug use there, no more delinquency, no more fighting. All the bad things that the neighbors fear would be replaced with a positive, neighborhood-value enhancing physical activity center that the kids would love and respect. Leave Crystal Park as it is, leave Rodney Park as it is and we will all see a downward spiral of juvenile delinquency in our neighborhood with the attendant property damage, petty thefts, muggings, drug use, illicit sexual activity, loud obscene language, little ‘tough guys’ trying to make a name for themselves by harassing the older folks. It will not get better. It will certainly get worse.
Interject a well-planned project that takes the small children’s equipment to Rodney Park and adds some sandboxes along with some creative, up-to-date playthings while transforming Crystal Park into a real basketball playground with at least one full-court and perhaps a couple of practice backboards requiring far less space and the neighborhood will begin to be livable again.
Exactly what some neighbors don’t want is precisely what will do them and the entire area the most good. My daily experience at Tornado Alley has been a personal blessing for me and it’s beyond a big hit with the children. I have watched, many times, as older teens (being respectful of each other) have shown the youngsters how to behave and give up on confrontation as the preferred method of interacting. There is true mentoring happening in my backyard as a regulated sports activity is bringing out the best in the participants.
I would hope that through the Weed & Seed Program, a Corporate or anonymous donor or the Mayor’s petty cash, this idea can become a reality and that the neighbors take a bit wider view of things to realize that this type of project won’t bring problems, it will bring the solution to the present and future problems. We may not save the whole City, but together we can do a great good for the youngsters in our immediate area who presently have no other outlets for their good energy. Please be on the side of the children. Try to remember when you were 12 or 16 and when you were 7 and 8 too.
His hoop dreams still scoring for kids
By Bernard Harris
Dec 29, 2003
Lancaster New Era
Photo by Andrew P. Blackburn Lancaster New Era
Dave Porter plans to begin the new year the same way he began this one.
He will spend the day at his Lancaster City home watching basketball on television. If the weather is nice, he will be outside playing basketball.
Porter won't be alone.
He is seldom alone these days - not since he painted lines on the parking pad behind his home and erected a regulation basketball hoop, creating a small, fenced-in court.
When he invited the neighborhood's children to play, they responded.
Now Porter's home in the first block of Ruby Street – or specifically his backyard - is a magnet for kids in the southwest part of the city.
But it didn't happen easily. City officials initially ordered Porter to shut down his half-court. They backed off only after dozens of neighbors - and the mayor - came to Porter's defense.
The 47-year-old bachelor has since been tapped to serve on several committees working to solve the problem of juvenile delinquency here. And he has become an outspoken advocate for parental involvement and the creation of similar, backyard basketball programs in the city.
"Basketball is life to the kids around here. Basketball is the fastest-growing sport in America - especially in the cities, "said Porter.
"Basketball is life," he repeated.
Porter is a tall, thin man who last played basketball on an academic team in 1969, at the former Reynolds Junior High School.
He used to spend his evenings playing Over 40 League basket ball at the YMCA. But he has given up league play and his Y membership card.
Porter speaks in rapid-fire phrases and moves suddenly, exuding a restless energy. He lives in the same home in which where he grew up.
Porter paid about $3,500 for the fencing, paving and tempered-glass backboard and goal. With that altruistic act, he hoped to give city kids a place to practice - and hone their skills to win a state championship.
Little did he know how much things would change for him. The half-court - which he dubbed Tornado Alley after the Red Tornadoes of his alma mater, J.P. McCaskey High School – has taken over his life.
His days are spent at his family's used furniture store two blocks from his home. His evenings are spent supervising the court. If he is not outside, he monitors the activity from video cameras that look down on the court. One of those cameras has night-vision capability.
Porter removes a chain and opens the court to players when he returns home from work, about 4:30 p.m. He closes it promptly at9 p.m.
He doesn't allow smoking, cursing, drugs, guns or violence. "The only shooting out here is basketballs at regulation backboards, "he said.
The half-court was an overnight success.
The regulars come from about a five-block radius. They invite friends from across the city, Porter said.
On a summer's day there may be a half-dozen kids shooting baskets and another dozen waiting their turn. Even in the winter chill, six or eight kids are usually playing on the court. Only a driving rain keeps them away, he said.
After a recent snowstorm, about eight young players arrived with show shovels. Within 15 minutes they were shooting hoops, he said.
"I didn't think it would be this successful, but look, geez, the kids are lining up to play," he said, looking at a videotape he made last summer.
Crime declined in the area. People from church groups began showing up. They wanted to get the kids into Bible studies. McCaskey grads now playing college ball came to encourage youngsters. Police officers also came to shoot a few baskets with the teens.
But a city zoning official also came to Porter's backyard.
In a much-publicized case, Porter was handed a cease-and-desist order for the half-court about a month after it opened.
Porter had failed to get permission to build the court, and the10-foot fences were 4 feet higher than permitted by city ordinances.
But in early July, about 50 of Porter's neighbors, friends, players and even Mayor Charlie Smithgall spoke in his defense. A special exception was approved to allow the court to remain open.
The zoning ruling legitimized Porter's efforts and more people came calling.
"City officials kind of recruited me to attack some of these problems of juvenile delinquency - asked me to be on a couple of different committees around here," he said.
The Lancaster coordinator of the state Weed & Seed program got him on the organization's Youth Prevention and Intervention Committee and overall steering committee.
In recent months he helped complete a 39-page application to the U.S. Justice Department, which he hopes will give the Lancaster program federal recognition and money. Some of those dollars could go to build more basketball courts in the cash-strapped city, said Porter.
As a member of the city police's Rodney and Crystal Parks Problem-Oriented Policing Project, he has been advocating for the construction of a new court at Crystal Park and replacement of the basketball goals at Rodney that were removed this spring.
The removal of the hoops at Rodney Park, less than three blocks from his home, is one of the reasons that Porter built his half-court.
Tornado Alley's popularity only underscored the problem. There was nowhere for neighborhood kids to play basketball, Porter said.
Along with championing construction of a new court, Porter would like other people to build their own public-use courts behind their homes as he did. He would also like to see a "Mad Dad" program, in which 100 neighborhood fathers would volunteer to supervise basketball courts at local parks.
In February, he will play host to representatives from Weed &Seed programs across the state. He will show off his court, which could become a statewide model.
In his own backyard, Tornado Alley has been snowballing. Porter has held free-throw competitions, one-on-one and three-point-shooting competitions.
He sends the results to newspaper sports editors for publication.
A friend gave him boxes of old trophies. Porter removed the engraved plaques and gave the trophies to competition winners. He printed photos of the winners and posted them on the fence along the alley.
He gave out donated T-shirts and sweatshirts until those ran out. Then he dug into his pocket and paid for more.
Sundays evenings became pizza night. It started with donated coupons. Then Porter paid to keep the pizzas coming.
In October he took the competitions on the road and hosted the mat the county's Youth Intervention Center. He gave out shirts there, too.
Porter said his credit cards are maxed out.
On his computer, Porter started the Tornadoalleyhoops.com Website. It contains links to 66 photos and pages related to the half court and local basketball. On the Web site LancasterOnline.com, he regularly posts information about local basketball.
"It keeps growing and growing and getting bigger and bigger," he said of Tornado Alley.
He was recently surprised to find his name last month on Lancaster County magazine's top 10 list of "civic-minded Lancastrians."
He insists he is not running for mayor. Porter says he just wants to promote basketball.
"When it rains and there is nothing going on out here, it's like wow. It's dead. Where is life at?
"Basketball is life with these kids."
And this year Tornado Alley became Porter's life.
The community's MVP
Lancaster Sunday News
Publication Date: Mar 14, 2004
By Maria Coole
Porter, 49, is a 2004 recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service and will be honored May 26 at a banquet in Hershey, where his love of basketball began.
Dave Porter was bitten by the basketball bug 40 years ago when his parents took him to see the Harlem Globetrotters in Hershey.
He has played basketball and been a devoted McCaskey High School basketball fan ever since.
Behind his Ruby Street house, where he grew up, there has always been a basketball hoop of some sort. And last year, wanting to encourage more talent that might eventually spill over into more wins for McCaskey, he created Tornado Alley, a place for neighborhood kids to come after school or on weekends to play basketball.
With his supervised, professional-grade half court, he has been scoring points and racking up recognition for his work with youth for almost a year.
But the most recent acknowledgment of his efforts might be considered a slam dunk.
Porter, 49, is a 2004 recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service and will be honored May 26 at a banquet in Hershey, where his love of basketball began.
The American Institute for Public Service established the Jefferson Awards in 1972 to honor contributions through public service. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was one of the founders of the Institute. The awards are presented on the national and the local level, and in this region, WGAL TV, PSECU and United Way sponsor the awards.
Porter said he was deeply humbled to receive the award. "It was given to me, but it was because of the kids. It's really their award,'' he said.
Kevin T. Carroll has known David Porter since he was young. The resident of the 700 block of Marietta Avenue is the person who nominated Porter for the award.
"He is truly a genuinely good-hearted man, a truly giving person. . He has always been that way,'' said Carroll.
In nominating Porter for the award, Carroll wrote, "He has planted seeds of hope and help, kindness, good sportsmanship and love amongst the children as well as their parents and the good neighbors who have seen their neighborhood get better and better every day that Tornado Alley has been open.'' Heart and soul City parks director Jeff Zimmerman, who was one of the people who spoke up for Porter's backyard court at a zoning hearing board meeting last year, said Tornado Alley is "the type of project we all should be supportive of. As far as I'm concerned, the heart and soul of the community is neighborhoods. There is no replacement for citizen participation. Government will not replace that kind of contribution.'' Mayor Charlie Smithgall, who also spoke up for Porter at the zoning meeting last year, said he wished there were more people involved with youth in neighborhoods.
"I think it's a wonderful honor for him. He's done an awful lot for the neighborhood kids.'' And no one knows that more than parents in Porter's neighborhood.
"I think that's awesome. I'm just glad he's finally getting recognized,'' said Robin Hayes-Toney.
Hayes-Toney and her husband, Leander Toney, of the 600 block of Bay Street have three boys, ages 17, 16 and 10, who go to Tornado Alley to play basketball.
"He keeps it under control. They can have fun and [parents] don't have to worry about someone being stupid,'' she said.
She said her boys used to go to Rodney Park to play basketball until the city removed the backboards and hoops.
Leander Toney, who played basketball for McCaskey High School in 1980, sometimes plays with the kids at Tornado Alley and gives them tips.
He said Porter deserves credit for building the court and the program for the kids.
"It keeps kids out of trouble. It keeps them busy. It's well supervised, and the kids respect the area,'' Toney said.
Victoria Matthews of the 300 block of Coral Street said every day when her 7-year-old son, Frank, gets home from school, he drops his book bag and "says he wants to go to Dave's court.'' "I've never seen him [Frank] so happy. He admires Dave; he's a role model to him. That's a blessing.'' MaryAnne Cullen of Church Street has the same experience. When her son Brian gets home from school, she said, "The first words out of his mouth is can I go to Tornado Alley?'' Cullen said Tornado Alley has changed her son's life. The first day he went there, he took part in a free-throw contest and made 12 baskets in a row. Brian is now the junior free-throw champion and has his picture on the fence of fame at the court. He was given a Tornado Alley T-shirt, a trophy and had his picture put on the Web site.
"That immediately solidified for him that [Tornado Alley] is a place he will get validation for his effort. [Dave] does a wonderful job making newcomers feel welcome,'' she said.
Cullen said Porter's winning the Jefferson Award is well deserved. "Especially the fact he paid for it out of his pocket.'' As a result, she added, it would be helpful if community organizations and companies helped to donate fund to underwrite the program.
Opens at 4:30 p.m.
Tornado Alley basketball begins at 4:30 each day, after Porter gets home from work. The court is chained closed until then. He never knows how many kids will show up. He has had as many as 40 or 50.
When it gets that crowded he holds three-point, one-on-one and foul shooting contests so all the kids get a chance to participate. The kids can win Tornado Alley T-shirts, sweatshirts, trophies, basketballs and cash.
On Sundays, his day off, he holds tournaments and feeds the kids pizza. He has gotten some donations from neighbors, parents and stores, but for the most part he spends his own money. Pizza Hut gives him a discount.
After so many donations of sodas last year, Porter learned the best drink for the kids is water. The kids get too hyper and soda pop attracts bees. He wants to have a water fountain installed at the court for the kids.
Other awards The Jefferson Award is not Porter's first honor for his work with children. He was also awarded the Weed & Seed Youth Service Award in February and named as one of the top 10 most community-minded Lancastrians by readers of Lancaster County Magazine in November of 2003.
A man of many ideas and much enthusiasm, Porter is already working on his newest Tornado Alley project he calls 10,000 points of light.
Porter wants to give a basketball to every boy and girl in the city, and he is looking for companies that will help finance the project. He needs eight companies that will buy logo space on the balls at the cost of $5,000 per company. A Lancaster company will handle the printing on the balls.
Porter believes in basketball as a way to improve Lancaster.
"It's not that we have a lot of bad kids. We have a lot of kids who have never been given the chance to be or get good at anything. If we don't help them from very early on, we've lost them to the streets. More and better basketball facilities throughout this city can fix a lot of broken spirits and save a lot of windows. This can become an amazing way to revitalize neighborhoods. It gets the men out to show the kids their moves and teach them teamwork. When the children are at Tornado Alley, the parents know that they are safe and are being watched by caring adults. This same thing can happen all over town and change the whole feel of our city. Let's let basketball get the youngest to the oldest instead of some gang or bag of dope. I hope this award is a step in that direction.'' The awards banquet will be held May 26 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. Tickets are $30, and proceeds will benefit United Way. To purchase tickets, contact United Way of Lancaster County at 394-0731.
TORNADO ALLEY MAKES THE COVER!!
We're in the BIG TIME now. TORNADO ALLEY Players are featured on the cover of the August, 2004 issue of LANCASTER COUNTY MAGAZINE on sale at newsstands now. Hurry out and get a copy while they last. TORNADO ALLEY has been so popular lately that this issue is liable to sell-out quickly.
All the Players and Helpers at Tornado Alley send a most sincere "THANKS" to the Publisher of LANCASTER COUNTY MAGAZINE and, especially, to Sue Long the Writer and Editor who did such a wonderful job of preparing a feature article about our activities.
Angels are Among Us
Ten years ago, David Porter was painting angels. Now, many Lancastrians consider Porter to be an angel, thanks to the time and personal resources he devotes to the city’s children.
By Sue Long
Photography by Allan Holm and courtesy of David Porter
The passage of a decade has seen the boyish-looking Porter develop a few gray hairs and fine lines around his eyes. Otherwise he retains his unabashed enthusiasm for life and the things he feels passionate about. Basketball remains at the top of that list, as it’s been a lifelong interest. He also continues to harbor an interest in and a talent for artistic pursuits. The plight of children figures in to his list of priorities, as well. Somehow, Porter has always managed to merge his interests and turn them into projects that foster peaceful co-existence.
Thanks to a project Porter calls Tornado Alley, he can share his love of basketball with younger generations who dream of being the next MJ, Shaq, or AI. For many children, Tornado Alley is a place where they can dream, escape the boredom of having nothing to do, or enjoy the camaraderie that comes with "belonging" to something that matters. "Basketball means everything to these kids," Porter explains. "They just want to play basketball."
While most passersby see a bunch of kids playing b-ball, Porter sees something else transpiring. "Kids like nothing better than to belong to something," he observes. "It pumps up their self-esteem, makes them proud of themselves." Social skills also emerge. "They learn to pat each other on the back and encourage one another to keep improving their skills," Porter has discovered. "Older kids like the fact that the younger ones admire and respect them, which is a big boost to their egos." Self-discipline is another learned trait the kids develop, which leads Porter to point out that his charges are "too busy playing basketball to get into any fights with one another."
Why does he devote his time, energy and personal resources to kids and basketball? In his estimation, the country’s future is at stake, pointing out that idle kids spell disaster. "They’re our weapons of mass destruction," he says, but quickly adds that in his opinion, peace can be achieved through the game of basketball. "Who would have ever thought that 1.3 billion people in China would be glued to their televisions to watch Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets play the Los Angeles Lakers?" he asks.
Porter’s philosophy of achieving world peace hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years. In an article written by Mary Alice Bitts for this magazine in 1994, Porter had the following to say: "No one has a memory of world peace because it has never existed. But if we plant the message in kids’ minds [that] this is possible, they can make it real." Ten years ago, Porter proposed that art could be used as a tool to achieve peace in the world, with children serving as the canvas. He proposed that through art, "children could learn to visualize all people as part of a harmonious, global community."
Porter produced what he called peace paintings and took them into local schools, where assemblies started with Porter playing the Star Spangled Banner Hendrix style, i.e. on an electric guitar. His message started with a question – Which country is the most powerful? The answer, of course, was always the same – the United States. Porter proposed to his audiences that military might had little to do with our strength. Instead, he argued that the country’s willingness to help the world’s downtrodden was empowering. "Helping people makes you strong," he told his audiences.
Porter had ambitious plans for his peace paintings – a world tour, a flight into space and posters in every classroom (around the world). Politicians, businesses, media and the man on the street encouraged this "cosmic artist" (WITF’s description of Porter) to pursue his dream.
Porter’s dream of world peace and a lifelong interest in all things mystical led him to develop a series of paintings that held spiritual significance. (Porter studied the Cabala long before Madonna made it hip.) The resulting paintings featured angels and other celestial beings that were the subject of a month-long exhibit at Mulberry Art Studios in December 1994.
Like many great experiments, reality eventually infringes on idealistic pursuits. In Porter’s case, raising the necessary funding proved to be a problem. Plus, the big monkey wrench -- earning a living – proved to be an obstacle Porter had to contend with. He put his paint brushes away and joined the family business – John L. Porter’s used Furniture -- on a full-time basis. The business is located on Columbia Avenue, just a few blocks from the Ruby Street address where Dave grew up and still lives.
While we oftentimes have to change our directions in life, some of us adapt and travel parallel paths. Both avenues apply to David Porter. He still dabbles in paint, saying one of these days he just might unveil a new series of paintings done in the tradition of artist Leroy Neiman, whose sports-inspired paintings provide a visual image for such events as the Olympic Games.
And, he’s still concerned with the plight of children, which brings us to Tornado Alley. Back in March 2003, after his beloved McCaskey Red Tornados lost to Lancaster Catholic in the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship game, Porter decided he would try to influence the future of McCaskey basketball by encouraging younger generations of city b-ball players to hone their skills at an early age. Where and how was the question that needed to be answered before he could proceed.
In the section of the city where Porter grew up, basketball courts in Rodney and Crystal parks had been eliminated. Then an idea materialized. The kids loved to shoot hoops in the alley behind Porter’s home, where a basket and macademed pad had existed since the early 70s. A vision of a top-flight basketball court popped into his head and Porter set about remodeling the area. Borrowing the catch phrase – if you build it they will come -- from Kevin Costner’s paean to baseball, Field of Dreams, Porter set about installing a basketball court that would make any kid proud. Porter erected an in-ground pole that is topped by a 72-inch, tempered-glass backboard. An acrylic-coated half-court stretches outward from the pole and basket. The court, which exhibits a blue and rust color scheme, challenges dreamers and talented players alike, as white lines demarcate three-point and foul-shooting territory for high school and college level players. A 12-foot-high chain-link fence encloses three sides of the court and is adorned with flags that depict NBA teams.
His new experiment met with rousing success. Kids flocked to the court. The first to accept Porter’s invitation to play ball were from the neighborhood that is bordered by Columbia and West End avenues and Manor and Dorwart streets. Soon faces from all over the city began to appear. Then kids from the burbs began stopping by to check out Porter’s court. Rodney King would be glad to hear that they all just got along.
Dave’s rules might have something to do with that. Players awaiting their chance to play cool their heels on an ever-lengthening bench that faces the court. Littering is forbidden, as is foul language, smoking, drugs and weapons. Hours of play are restricted to 4:30-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 12 noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday, which is Porter’s only day off from work. Punishment is doled out to those who break the rules. "One day of suspension," Porter says, referring to the cost players must pay from breaking a rule.
How does Porter know if a player enters the court at 4:15? A tour of Porter’s living room reveals a security and surveillance system that the FBI would surely approve of. The system enables Porter to monitor the goings-on from inside the house and issue admonitions that sound like the voice of God and appear to be coming from the sky (the speakers are hidden in the trees) to any players that are testing Porter’s rules of conduct. Each and every day all the proceedings are videotaped.
All was well until someone questioned whether Porter had gone through the proper channels – zoning – to build his court. (He figured that because a semblance of the court had been there for 30-plus years, his cosmetic changes didn’t warrant zoning approval.) After a zoning officer paid a visit to the property and reported his findings to the board, officials decreed Porter was in violation of the law. Fencing was the culprit – the chain-link exceeded the six-foot height limit, plus a lower wooden fence around the inside of the court, which was built to muffle the sound of the basketballs hitting the court’s surface, was only inches away from the taller fence and the not the five feet that was required. "All I was doing was trying to make sure the ball didn’t go into the neighbors’ yards and keep the noise down," Porter says.
Admitting he had made a mistake in not going through proper channels, Porter decided to plead his case before the zoning board. However, Porter had no plans of attending the hearing with hat in hand. He staged a one-man public relations campaign that ultimately received a lot of ink in the local newspapers. Plus, he circulated a petition that urged the zoning board to bestow their blessings on the court. "People came out of the woodwork in support of what I was doing," he marvels. Even the mayor weighed in, saying he noticed fewer kids were hanging out in the parking lot of his nearby Columbia Avenue pharmacy and credited Tornado Alley for the change.
In the end, after presenting the petition that was signed by hundreds of people and assembling a group of speakers (some of whom were players), who attested to the positive impact the court was having on the city’s children, Porter prevailed and Tornado Alley was given an exemption and thus the go-ahead to play ball.
Porter soon discovered the power the media wielded. Monetary donations began to arrive in the mail. He would arrive home to find cases of soda on his front porch. Area businesses pitched in – Pizza Hut provided pizza on Sundays at a discount. Brewer’s Outlet donated soda. Scott Michael who coaches the Sketts Heat basketball team, gifted Dave with boxes of trophies that he uses for the many contests he sponsors at Tornado Alley. When he discovered the sugary sodas attracted bees and over-stimulated the kids, Porter switched to water. McComb’s Supply aided the cause by installing a water fountain behind the court. "The donations have kind of dried up," Porter admits, "so I’m back to financing everything myself. My bank account’s empty and I’ve maxed out my credit cards."
However, other donations that make a big impression on the kids continue. Such donations involve time, which in this day and age is a very valuable commodity. "Just the other day, Coach Powell stopped by," Porter says, referring to McCaskey High School’s head basketball coach. "And the kids love it when players like Dustin Salisbery and Akeem Washington stop by."
Police officers visit on a regular basis to shoot some hoops and, hopefully, establish on-going relationships with the kids, as well. And, a McCaskey alumni Porter describes as an angel in her own right, Daisy Myers, keeps the kids supplied with T-shirts that are emblazoned with Tornado Alley’s logo. Myers, who lives in Miami, Florida, keeps informed of Tornado Alley happenings through the Internet (www.tornadoalleyhoops.com). "Those shirts give the kids a sense of belonging," Porter explains. "They wear them with pride."
Porter’s brush with the governmental process led to his getting involved on a personal level. He serves on the Youth Prevention and Intervention Committee, and is a member of the group’s steering committee. In February, state officials associated with Weed & Seed programs paid him a visit to discuss the possibility of making Tornado Alley a prototype for a statewide program. (The goal of the Weed & Seed program is to "weed out" drug trafficking and other crimes through coordinated law enforcement and "seed" the area with programs that address education, job training, employment and mentoring.)
Porter was also instrumental in completing a 39-page application to the U.S. Justice Department, which distributes Weed & Seed money to communities across the nation. Officials from the department visited Tornado Alley in June to see firsthand the impact it is making on the neighborhood. "We go to Indiana in July to present our case and compete against the other cities that are vying for the money," he says. "It’s a long process, but considering there’s millions of dollars at stake, it’s worth it."
Porter knows firsthand the impact such funding makes, as Weed & Seed money enabled him to form a basketball team that is playing in the summer league sponsored by the Lancaster Recreation Commission. "It’s great to see the kids’ parents coming out to watch the games and cheer them on," Porter says of the seventh and eighth graders that comprise the Tornado Alley Cats.
Still, Dave is dreaming of what could be. He’d love to see Tornado Alley "cloned all over the city." He’d also like to see the underutilized Crystal Park become a haven for basketball players. Neighbors in the vicinity of the park are wary of the proposal, but Porter thinks it could become an asset to the city.
In April, Porter was Lancaster’s sole recipient of a Jefferson Award, a national program administered by the American Institute for Public Service, through which citizens are recognized for service to the community. In this region of the country, WGAL-8, the United Way and PSECU sponsor the awards program that involves a nominating process and ends with a banquet, which was held May 26 at the Hershey Lodge & Convention Center. News anchor Kim Lemon is the local spokesperson for the Jefferson Awards and in that capacity profiles each award-winner prior to the awards dinner. "That was exciting to have Kim and the film crew visit us," Porter says. Pictures of Kim with the players adorn the Wall of Fame that skirts the alley.
Lancaster resident, Kevin Carroll, who has known Dave for nearly 30 years, nominated him for the honor. Carroll describes himself as one of Tornado Alley’s cheerleaders and has visited the court on numerous occasions. "I spoke on Dave’s behalf at the zoning hearing and was grateful things worked out so beautifully," he says. "It was a wonderful experience – I never saw government act so fast to right a wrong."
As a block-watch captain Carroll has always been aware of the challenges the city faces. "One night I was leaving a meeting and got to talking to [city police officer] Bill Gleason," he recalls. "I asked him what we were going to do about teenagers and the trouble they were getting into. Bill explained the police force was changing their tactics and concentrating on establishing relationships with kids who are three, four and five years old. The thing is, that’s the age group that Dave focuses on – getting them involved in the game. What they’re learning from him and the older kids will transfer to life. I’m always impressed by how thrilled the kids are to be there. They go all out to keep the area neat. It’s become a very valuable part of their lives. They’re also learning another lesson – fair play.
"Dave’s talking about cloning Tornado Alley, I wish we could just clone Dave! His art project was admirable, but this is more so because it’s hands-on. He interacts with the kids one-on-one and knows all their names. He knows their parents. He’s the kind of guy you can go to for help. If you told him you needed help with something, he’d ask what time he should be there and he’d arrive right on time."
While Carroll wonders "what’s next for Dave," it’s obvious the recognition has spurred Porter’s creative juices. His latest project is to provide every child who resides in the city with his or her own basketball. He figures he needs 10,000 balls and proposes to raise the funding by selling logo space to area businesses. (Eight would be needed at a cost of $5,000 each to cover expenses.) "Corporate American is going to have to step up," he says. "Cities are strapped for cash and it’s the kids who are being impacted. And, if kids are bored and have nothing to do, we know what happens."
Porter has seen the kids in his neighborhood use some creative, positive thinking to fend off boredom. "One day we were hit with heavy snow and I figured that would put an end to playing basketball for a while," he recalls. Soon he heard the unmistakable sound of snow shovels and looked out back, only to discover some boys working feverishly to rid the court of the snow. "They had it dug out in no time and were soon playing ball," he says with a smile.
2004 Jefferson Awards
Susquehanna Valley resident was honored on May 26, as recipient of the prestigious Jefferson Award. The Jefferson Awards, in their 25th year, are presented each year to recognize the efforts of volunteers for public service throughout the community. The award, sponsored this year by six local United Ways, WGAL TV 8 and PSECU were named after Thomas Jefferson because of his belief in the importance of giving of oneself to help others in need.
David Porter, whose backyard basketball court has become a huge sensation, was the Lancaster County recipient. As a life-long basketball fan, Porter decided to refurbish the basketball hoop behind his Ruby Street home so that neighborhood children could come and play afterschool and on the weekends.
The professional-grade half court he had built has become a popular spot for area youth to spend their free time. With Porter's supervision, the children begin playing basketball at 4:30 p.m. each day after he returns home from work. On Sundays, when Porter has off, he holds tournaments and feeds the children pizza. While he has recieved some donations from neighbors, parents and local businesses, most of the funding for the court, activities and supplies is his own.
The Jefferson Award is not Porter's first honor for his work for the community. He was also presented with the Weed and Seed Youth Service Award and was named one of the top ten most community-minded Lancastrians by readers of Lanaster County Magazine, in November of 2003.
Lancaster Sunday News
Publication Date: July 23, 2006
Adverse winds at play in Tornado Alley
Founder says scrutiny of West End basketball court is out of bounds
By Gil Smart, Associate Editor email@example.com
When last we left Dave Porter, he'd just gotten a Jefferson Award for Community Service.
The Lancaster bachelor, now 50, was being lauded as a model citizen for spending more than $3,500 of his own money to create "Tornado Alley," a basketball half-court behind his home at 105 Ruby St. After city zoning authorities called "foul,'' Porter and his basketball court became a cause célÃ¨bre, and he was lauded as the kind of involved citizen that Lancaster needs to help turn troubled neighborhoods around.
Two years later, Tornado Alley still packs 'em in and Porter is as enthusiastic as ever. But the lifelong basketball fan has been troubled in recent weeks after a few minor incidents resulted in a visit from police, who, he said, had some concern about gangs, and asked him to "tone it down."
Porter worries that police, and maybe some neighbors, may be overreacting, which could spell trouble for Tornado Alley, and the positive impact he and others think it's had on his West End neighborhood.
Wednesday afternoon, as the mercury hovered near 90 degrees, a group of about 25 kids and a few adults clogged the court. There were a few more kids on hand than usual, Porter said, because he was running a three-point contest. But on average, he said, the three-year-old court gets about a dozen kids or so daily, from elementary school students to high schoolers.
Sweating in between shots, Dakota Royer, age 15, volunteered that, "This is a real good place ... you can always come up here to play basketball. There's always something going on."
But gangs? Trouble? "I don't see anything when I'm here," Royer said.
Echoed Hope Brown, a neighbor and mother of a teenage girl who occasionally plays ball on Porter's court:
"I've lived here since May and I've not had one problem. Dave knows all the kids, and that he has a good group. The kids respect this place."
Porter admits there are occasional dust-ups. After one player spit through a chain-link fence onto a neighbor's car, Porter erected a large wooden fence. "If I see a problem, I attack it right away."
And by most accounts, problems at Tornado Alley have been few. Porter keeps to a tight schedule; a few smaller kids shoot around during the day when he's at work, just up the street at his family's store that sells used furniture. In the evening, after work, the court fills up; Porter snaps digital photos that he then posts on the Web, runs contests, hands out trophies and talks with the players. When he's not on the court, he's inside his house, monitoring the action via video camera.
And about 9 p.m. every evening, he said, he pulls his truck beneath the hoop, shutting things down until the next day.
But some things, Porter can't control.
A few weeks ago, he said, two teens he didn't recognize, from York County, stopped by. That prompted a visit from police; the kids, Porter said, had sliced through their ankle monitors, and one was found to be in possession of marijuana.
That came on the heels of another incident in which city police arrested a local juvenile on an outstanding warrant, and found, in his room, a large color poster of him playing basketball at Tornado Alley.
But the final straw for him came about two weeks ago, Porter said, when police came to him with a complaint about graffiti scrawled on a neighbor's garage door. The graffiti was scrawled, not in paint, but in chalk and crayon; Porter and neighbor Hope Brown suspect it was just young kids being kids.
But Porter said a city police officer told him there was some concern that the graffiti might be gang-related.
"I never saw any gang activity back here," said Porter. "A couple of kids with basketballs isn't a gang."
Porter said police told him to "tone it down." Porter was also told that he's not to monitor activity from inside the house; he's to be out on the court when the players are there.
And if there were additional problems, well ...
Porter said he'll do what he can, but he's worried. His neighborhood, as with much of the West End, has seen an increase in crime, and the constant presence of a large group of teenage kids, many of them African-American, congregating in the alley behind his house might make some people nervous.
Still, he said, there was a time when city police would stop by to chat with the kids, maybe even play a little ball; on a wall behind his court is a picture of two smiling officers shooting around with a few of the regulars.
But police don't come around to shoot hoops or shoot the breeze anymore, Porter said. He understands, but thinks maybe they'd see for themselves that fears about Tornado Alley are overblown if they did.
Said neighbor Hope Brown: "This has actually cut down on the number of problems in the neighborhood.
"I just hope they don't take those isolated incidents too seriously."n
© 2004-2006 Lancaster Newspapers
PO Box 1328, Lancaster PA 17608, (717) 291-8811
Publication Date: September 2, 2008
Popular city hoops court wrecked
BY BRETT HAMBRIGHT, Intelligencer Journal Staff
Instead of hosting basketballers on a sunny Labor Day, Dave Porter was surveying damages to the homemade basketball court behind his Lancaster city home.
A large rock was thrown Sunday night into the half-court -- dubbed "Tornado Alley" -- and it shattered the state-of-the-art backboard that lures dozens of city residents each day.
Porter said he's identified the young vandal through surveillance cameras mounted at the half-court behind 105 Ruby St. He's not interested in pressing charges against the 8-year-old boy who tossed the rock into the 72-by-42-inch, tempered-glass backboard.
He does, however, want to replace the backboard as soon as possible. Problem is, it's an expensive job that will cost more than $1,000.
The lifetime city resident and longtime basketball fanatic is asking for a little help in bringing back the game.
Until he does, he expects to hear wanna-be Michael Jordans and Kobe Bryants knocking on his front door.
"The kids have been over all day," Porter said Monday afternoon, "saying, 'Yo, what's up? Who did this?'â€ˆ"
One boy who knocked on Porter's door offered all the money in his pockets -- 57 cents.
"This is their turf," Porter said.
On any given day, the court is used by 40 to 50 city youths, Porter said.
"It's open 9 (a.m.) to 9 (p.m.), everyday, 365 days a year -- rain, sleet or snow," he said. "I've seen them shovel snow off the court and play on it."
All games stopped at about 7:30 p.m. Sunday, when the boy tossed the rock. Porter said he didn't hear anything that night, but later found the rock and noticed the spider-webbed backboard.
On Monday, Porter watched surveillance videos. From one angle, he could clearly see the boy tossing the rock.
Porter said the vandal was a boy who has played on the court.
"I didn't believe it," Porter said. "I thought it might have been someone that targeted the court. An older kid."
Porter went to the boy's home and showed the footage to his parents. They acknowledged the child in the video as their son.
"They were shocked," Porter said.
The boy "tried to say he was sorry, in broken English," Porter said.
Porter said he isn't going to press charges because he doesn't want the boy to face repercussions from the many ballers who play in Tornado Alley.
Also, Porter said, the boy is from a low-income family. "They can barely pay rent," he said.
Five years ago, Porter constructed the macadam-top court and NBA-style backboard and hoop. He decided to build the court when a neighborhood basketball hoop was torn down.
"There was nowhere else for the kids to play," Porter said. "I just remembered how much fun I had playing."
Porter, a 1974 McCaskey High School graduate, named the half-court in honor of his alma mater's mascot -- the Red Tornado.
Five years after the first jump shots and slam dunks, Tornado Alley now hosts daily games and competitions. Many local athletes -- past and present -- frequent the half-court, which has 12-foot wooden fences on three sides. Former McCaskey High School basketball standouts stop by to teach young players.
Porter will now have to custom-order a new backboard, pay shipping costs for the 200-pound item, then rent a jack to install it.
Donations to help replace the backboard can be made from Porter's Web site, tornadoalleyhoops.com or by calling Porter at 392-5428.
Porter has paid for previous damages and basic up-keep bills, but he said the damages this time are "major." Excess donated funds will be spent on the court.
Lancaster New Era
Publication Date: September 2, 2008
Backboard damaged at Ruby St. basketball court
Every day, for 12 hours a day, for the past five years, "Tornado Alley," a half basketball court, behind 105 Ruby St., has been open for young neighborhood kids to shoot hoops.
That ended Sunday evening.
An 8-year-old boy threw a rock through the court's tempered-glass backboard, halting play.
Dave Porter, who built the court behind his home, captured images of the vandalism with a surveillance camera but he does not want to press charges. He doesn't want the boy to face repercussions from the many players who use the court.
Also, Porter said, the boy is from a low-income family. "They can barely pay rent," he said.
He is asking for community help to replace the backboard and reopen the court. Porter will need to custom-order a new backboard, pay shipping costs for the 200-pound item, then rent a jack to install it. He expects the cost to be more than $1,000.
Donations to help replace the backboard can be made from Porter's Web site at tornadoalleyhoops.com or by calling Porter's home at 392-5428.
Until it's fixed, Porter expects to hear wanna-be Michael Jordans and Kobe Bryants knocking on his front door.
"The kids have been over all day," Porter said Monday afternoon, "saying, 'Yo, what's up? Who did this?'â€ˆ"
One boy who knocked on Porter's door offered all the money in his pockets -- 57 cents.
"This is their turf," Porter said.
On any given day, the court is used by 40 to 50 city youths, Porter said.
"It's open 9 (a.m.) to 9 (p.m.), everyday, 365 days a year -- rain, sleet or snow," he said. "I've seen them shovel snow off the court and play on it."
Thank You, Lancaster What a great city!
We were overwhelmed with all the support and donations we received to replace the shattered backboard at Tornado Alley this week. Hoop Dreams will continue at Tornado Alley for many years to come. Thanks to: Former Lancaster Judge Paul A. Mueller; Peggy Steinman; Majik Rent To Own; The Breneman Company; Zephyr Aluminum; City Limits; Bay Matrix Consulting; Lancaster Newspapers; Wright Reality; Kegels Produce; Daisy Lee Myers; The Reynolds Family; The Purvis Family; Bob Stein Ph.D; Linda Curtiss; Mayor Rick Gray: James Mitchell; Jeanne A. Wagman; Brabara Betts; Marcia Decania; Frank & Carlene Wolf; John L. Friant; Don Snade; Fredericka Albert: Beth Gainer; Edward Weitkamp;
and,to all of the others who have donated and supported Tornado Alley over the years.
Thanks also from all the kids who are learning values and self-discipline while having fun being team players at Tornado Alley. They, too, appreciate this! It shows them how many people really care about them and want to see them succeed.
Sincerely Dave Porter and all the Tornado Alley kids
TornadoAlley to be back inbusiness
BY TOM KNAPP, Intelligencer Journal Staff
Ruby Street hoopsters are getting back in the game.
Less than a week after an 8-year-old city boy hurled a rock through the tempered-glass backboard at Tornado Alley, a popular basketball hangout behind 105 Ruby St., funds have been raised to replace the shattered item.
"I got a great response. In one day, we got all these donations and support," said Dave Porter, who built the professional-scale half-court behind his Ruby Street home.
"I just ordered a new backboard today," he said Wednesday evening. "People were calling off the hook. I was overwhelmed ... and the kids are really going to appreciate it.
"It's good to know people are caring about the kids."
Porter custom-ordered a new 200-pound backboard that, with two-day shipping costs from Kansas City, cost him about $1,000. He will rent a jack to install it once it arrives.
"We should have it by Monday for sure," he said.
Extra money left over from this week's donations will be used to repave the court and maybe add a few amenities, such as NBA flags, he said.
Porter, who captured images of the vandalism in progress through a surveillance camera, opted not to press charges against the boy.
On any given day, Porter said, the court is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is used by 40 to 50 city youths.
"We'll keep it going," he said. "It's been going for more than five years now. This is the first time we had something major happen."
For more information, visit Porter's Web site at tornadoal leyhoops.com.
MAKING LANCASTER BETTER!
OCT, 12. 2012
COMMUNITY YOUTH SUPPORTER DAVE PORTER RECEIVES THE 2012 SUSAN J. GAROFOLA AWARD
Established in 2002, The Susan J. Garofola Service Award is presented annually by the McCaskey Alumni Association to a person of our community who has distinguished him or herself by outstanding service to McCaskey High School or to the McCaskey Alumni Association.
This year’s award is being presented to an alumnus of McCaskey High School who graduated with the Class of 1974 – Dave Porter.
As an avid supporter of Red Tornado boys’ basketball, fans can find this man at just about every McCaskey basketball game with a camera to his eye and his finger on the shutter.
However, many young athletes in Southwest Lancaster know him as a mentor and friend who literally transformed his backyard into a safe haven for them.
With child delinquency problems and area crime on the rise, on April 1, 2003, “Tornado Alley” was born. Out of love for the kids and for the game of basketball, Dave invested approximately $4,000 of his own money to construct a first-class, half-court basketball facility behind his home. The court is open after school and closes promptly at 9:00 pm and is available to kids from age 7 to 20.
Dave readily admits that he had another reason to pour his heart and money into the backyard half-court. He hopes to produce outstanding basketball players who will eventually bring home a State championship to McCaskey High School! He stated, “You have to start the kids early.”
City kids need a place that provides an opportunity to learn the game and to hone their skills. Tornado Alley is a place where kids can dream, escape the boredom of having nothing to do, or enjoy the camaraderie that comes with belonging to something that matters. “Basketball means everything to these kids,” Dave explains. “They just want to play basketball.”
The kids are always supervised. If not on the court encouraging the youngsters to work hard, he monitors the court activity from inside his home with video cameras that look down on the court.
As a result of “Tornado Alley” and its positive effect on the kids, Dave was recruited by City officials to attack problems of juvenile delinquency by serving on several committees including one to improve Rodney and Crystal Parks. He was a recipient of the Weed + Seed Youth Service Award as well as the Jefferson Award for Public Service. He was also named to Lancaster County Magazine’s “Top 10 List of Community-Minded Lancastrians.”
And, of course, there is that “camera” thing. Dave not only shoots the McCaskey boys basketball teams but also other SDOL elementary, middle school, and high school campus sports and cheerleading. If you visit his website, tornadoalleyhoops.com, you will find thousands of photos of Tornado Alley and SDOL activities, including the Prom!
According to SDOL Athletic Director Jon Mitchell, Dave travels to virtually all away varsity football and basketball games. He provides coaches and players with posters, with team pictures that are used for District 3/PIAA programs, with team pictures for booster club souvenir programs, and with photos that are used on the athletic schedule posters.
He also graciously volunteers his time to the McCaskey Alumni Association for its Alumni Basketball Game and the Distinguished Alumni Assembly and Banquet. In fact, he is here with us this evening with his camera and, once again, volunteering his services.
For all these wonderful examples of community service, it now gives me pleasure to present the 2012 Susan J. Garofola Service Award to …. Dave Porter.
Hoops host celebrates 10 years of Tornado Alley
BY BRETT HAMBRIGHT, Staff Writer
JUNE 15 2013
High-stakes jump shots rise with the heat 'round Dave Porter's way.
That's because Porter hosts hordes of young hoopsters at his backyard basketball court, known as "Tornado Alley."
This spring marks the 10th year Porter opens his half-court at 105 Ruby St. to anyone up for a game or hoping to make a quick fiver on the now-infamous "5-point shot."
"That was a big hit when we first started it," said Porter, who could have also been referring to Tornado Alley's debut in April 2003.
Porter's prize shots and shooting challenges have always been highly contested since he first opened court after a neighborhood park was stripped of its nets.
No doubt, the cash rewards play a part in that.
It's five bucks to anyone who sinks the 35-foot, 5-pointer -- which comes complete with natural obstacles.
"You have to shoot it through the big old walnut tree," Porter says. "And I have to see it.
"Couldn't make it too easy."
He's already lost a few bucks that way, but no one has claimed the $100 prize up for grabs to the kid that breaks the long-standing 3-point record.
Ten years ago, Marquis Vazquez -- a McCaskey High School standout at the time -- stopped by to sink 21 straight 3-pointers.
"That will be tough," Porter said.
McCaskey stars stopping by -- along with many other notables -- has become tradition.
For the 10-year anniversary two months ago, city police Chief Keith Sadler and Mayor Rick Gray paid visits.
Indeed, the court has come a long way since the 57-year-old Porter tacked it onto his childhood home.
"My dad first put a backboard up for me in 1964," Porter recalls, "but it was nothing like this."
Tornado Alley's transparent acrylic, NBA-style backboard is a big attraction.
The fenced-in court, adorned with NBA team flags and logos, draws more than 50 kids on peak summer days, Porter said.
Everyone and anyone is welcome.
"I get kids from all different schools -- Lancaster Mennonite, Lancaster Country Day," Porter said.
He admits having a soft spot for urban youth with little at home and few entertainment options.
"Basketball is life to a lot of these kids. They feel like they are part of something," Porter said. "It's a family."
Porter even appointed Tornado Alley "captains" who tutor younger kids on court rules and keeping the property clean.
If play gets a little too rowdy, Porter turns on flood lights affixed to his home.
"We rarely have to do that," he said. "In 10 years, I haven't had to call the police one time. The kids are busy having fun."
The only incident that could have involved police happened in 2008, when a kid tossed a rock through the hoop backboard.
It cost more than $1,000 to replace the tempered-glass backboard.
Porter, after viewing surveillance videos, identified the vandal as an 8-year-old boy who played on the court.
Porter didn't press charges. Instead, he showed the video to the boy's parents.
A couple days later, Porter had enough public donations to replace the backboard and have it shipped from Kansas City.
Open at first light, the game is on daily at Tornado Alley until 9 p.m. -- "sharp," Porter says. (So the kids can get home before 10 o'clock curfew.)
"The kids play all the time, all year 'round," he said. "The regulars are here every day, but there are always new faces, too."
Many go home with trophies and T-shirts won during daily contests and challenges.
By July, there will be another hoop in the neighborhood.
A court is being constructed at Crystal Park, located about a block from Porter's place. The project is to be completed in a couple weeks.
Porter has supported the renovation since plans started years ago. And he's confident it won't make his colorful half-court obsolete.
"A lot of people are asking, 'You going to keep it open?' " Porter said. "Sure, the more options the better. Everybody wants to play basketball.
"It's a dream come true in my backyard."
Tornado Alley milestone
Ten years ago, naysayers were convinced Dave Porter's "Tornado Alley" backyard basketball court would not last.
But that was then, and this is now: The half-court, at his home at 105 Ruby Street, remains a magnet for young hoopsters from a wide area.
The lighted, fenced-in court has a transparent acrylic, NBA-style backboard. NBA team flags and logos are hung throughout.
As many as 50 youngsters play there on peak days during the summer months (although the court is in use year 'round.)
Captains appointed by Porter tutor younger players on court rules and keeping the property clean.
Contests and competitions are held, with trophies and T-shirts being awarded.
A number of hoop stars from Porter's alma mater, McCaskey High School, have joined in the fun over the years.
A b-ball court is being built at Crystal Park, about a block away, and some are wondering whether it will spell doom for Porter's half-court.
Don't bet on it. The 57-year-old Porter has beat the odds before.
As the person behind the continued success of the court, Dave Porter is this week's Lancaster New Era Red Rose Award recipient.