Everyone told Linda McCullough “Those are big shoes to fill” when she was hired in 2005 to replace Don Henderson, becoming only the second executive director of Swarthmore Recreation Association. Henderson retired after 40 years of service, during which SRA grew into the four season community-based recreation program for Swarthmore. The association was formed at Borough Council’s request in 1940, as a non-profit organization to provide summer recreational programs for children. Activities have expanded to serve all ages, all year round.
Now after 12 years, Linda has herself decided to step down, and the search will begin for a new executive director. SRA has grown steadily over the last decade, which has seen the merger of Nether Providence Athletic Association and SRA to create the Nether Swarthmore Hoops youth basketball program in 2013 with more than 730 participants in grades K-12. More than 100 volunteer coaches that help make that program successful, Linda says.
“Volunteers are the heart and soul of SRA,” says Linda. “Without their dedication to coaching, organizing equipment, and running our programs, we would not be able to offer such a diversity of activities.” In fact, last year alone, SRA had 250 volunteers serve as program coordinators for track, ultimate Frisbee, and volleyball; as coaches, travel soccer managers, and race officials for the New Year’s Day 5k Race and Family Fun Run; and as SRA board members.
SRA’s $300,000+ annual revenue comes from program registration fees, grants from the Borough of Swarthmore and Nether Providence Township, and donations from community members. Its programs and recreational activities take place in fields, playgrounds, churches, schools, the Swarthmore Community Center, and Swarthmore College are used throughout the year to provide space for youth and adults in Swarthmore.
The association’s role in Swarthmore lives continues to expand. Earlier this year, Borough Council tasked SRA with developing activities for seniors in the community, per the recommendations of the Aging-in-Place Task Force study.
This summer, Linda worked with borough manager Jane Billings and summer intern Alex Maillet to create a walking program for seniors. On recent Wednesday mornings, Linda and SRA program coordinator Nika Haase tried out several designated senior-friendly loops in the borough, one walking tour of older and historic homes, the other a longer loop up through Swarthmore College’s main lawn.
Linda thanks the Swarthmore community for supporting her service as executive director over the last 12 years. She will stay with SRA through the summer next year to help select and support the next director. “My successor will need to be organized, creative, and have a sense of humor,” says Linda. “As for ‘big shoes to fill,’ my shoes are pretty average size, but I’ll tell the next director that whatever size shoes he or she wears, they’d better be laced up tight, double knotted, and ready to go!”