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Lifelong Harrowgate resident honored with City Council resolution for fostering “unity and pride among residents”

Ridgway, who founded Harrowgate Civic Association about 10 years ago, now serves as the group’s vice president.

Officer Tina Willis gives Harrowgate resident Jim Ridgway a hug after he received an award at the Harrowgate Civic meeting at Heitzman Rec Center on April 4, 2024. (Photo by Solmaira Valerio)

Neighbors know Jim Ridgway as a man of few words but also a man of action.

Ridgway, a 67-year-old lifelong Harrowgate resident, was met with a surprise at last week’s Harrowgate Civic Association meeting when Philadelphia City Council member Jim Harrity announced a resolution honoring his “tireless efforts in making a positive impact on the lives” of Kensington residents.

Harrity and Councilmember Quetcy Lozada read the resolution to the crowd at the April 4 meeting. 

“The Council of the City of Philadelphia honors Jim Ridgway, a lifelong resident of Harrowgate and one of its most dedicated community members,” the resolution says.

Jim Ridgway shakes hands with Deputy Police Commissioner Pedro Rosario after receiving an award from the city at the Harrowgate Civic Association meeting on April 4, 2024. (Photo by Solmaira Valerio)

At the meeting, Ridgway, who founded the Harrowgate Civic Association about 10 years ago and now serves as the group’s vice president, stood in front of about 80 people at Heitzman Rec Center, shaking his head. His wife Beverly and three daughters stood to his left as Lozada, Harrity, and community leaders praised his dedication to the neighborhood. 

Ridgway lives in the same house where he grew up, now with Beverly and his kids. A retired truck mechanic, he founded Harrowgate Civic, is the director of Harrowgate Town Watch, participates in the 24th Police District Advisory Council (PDAC), and regularly cleans up the neighborhood’s streets and sidewalks. 

Ridgway started the civic group when he learned a nightclub was trying to open next to his house in a residential area, said Harrowgate Civic President Shannon Farrell. They fought the nightclub’s plan in a city zoning meeting and won. From there, he started noticing other tasks residents could take on together.

“Like every other day, he was at our house knocking, got his neighbors together, and that’s how we formed the Civic group,” Farrell said. “It would have been nearly impossible to have done this without him, and I don’t know that we would have.” 

During the award presentation, Farrell told the crowd that Ridgway’s contributions have fostered a sense of “unity and pride among residents.” Other neighbors spoke highly of Jim, also known as Jimmy or J.R., recalling old memories of times he’s shown up. 

“First of all, he’s full of crapola,” said Bill Summers, who works for the city and has known Ridgway for about 10 years through volunteering with PDAC. 

Jim Ridgway claps after receiving an award in recognition of dedicated service, hard work, and countless contributions to the community from the Harrowgate Civic Association at Heitzman Rec Center on April 4, 2024. (Photo by Solmaira Valerio)

According to Summers, while he and Ridgway don’t always agree, they do share a love for the blues, like Howlin’ Wolf. More importantly, he said Ridgway is always reliable when it comes to picking up trash in the neighborhood. 

“He’ll be with me in areas where folks won’t go,” Summers said. “He would always come, no matter what I was doing or where I was going.”

Betty Coyle, who’s lived in Harrowgate for over 70 years, remembers Ridgway for leading her two sons, now 37 and 40, on a Boy Scouts camping trip in Harrowgate Park, tents and all. 

“The kids learned a lot,” said Coyle, “And they all remember Jim Ridgway.” 

The resolution was introduced by the Kensington caucus, a coalition of City Council members Mike Driscoll (District 6), Lozada (District 7), Mark Squilla (District 1), and Harrity, an at-large member who lives in Kensington. 

A portrait of Jim Ridgway with his family and friends (from left to right): wife Beverly, daughter Stacey, Harrowgate Civic President Shannon Farrell, Jim, daughter Tina, and daughter Katherine, at Heitzman Rec Center on April 4, 2024. (Photo by Solmaira Valerio)

The resolution also mentions Ridgway’s impact on his daughters, including bringing them to clean-ups and community activities and inspiring his daughter Tina to serve on Harrowgate Civic’s board.

“Jim Ridgway’s dedication as a father and grandfather further underscores his commitment to fostering a strong sense of community and civic responsibility among future generations,” it says. 

Ridgway’s impact on future generations resonated with his daughter, Stacey Ridgway. 

“I’m just proud of my dad,” she said. “He’s awesome, he’s amazing, and [I’m] just happy that he’s my dad, and I’m lucky my kids have him as a grandfather.” 

After the speeches, Ridgway felt grateful to see everyone who showed up for him.  

“They really surprised me ... I don’t talk that much, I just do,” he said.

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