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Strawberry Mansion business owner's community learning center fulfills his late mother's wish

Son honors mother's legacy by helping the youth in Strawberry Mansion
Son honors mother's legacy by helping the youth in Strawberry Mansion 03:48

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A Strawberry Mansion business owner is fulfilling his late mother's request to make a positive impact on the community. 

"She said, 'Do what you do. You know, you like working with young people. Speak up, say something,'" Kevin Upshur said.

Upshur lives by those words. His late mother Shirley was known as "Miss Nightlife Personality." She owned the neighborhood bar at the corner of Dauphin and N. 30th streets in North Philadelphia.

"One thing she was always concerned about was single mothers," Upshur said. "She was a single mother. She raised me pretty much by herself."

She left that building to her son with one request.

"She said, 'Well you know, you got to do something in the community,'" Upshur said.

In 2008 he made good on that promise and turned the family's business into the Strawberry Mansion Learning Center.

"A lot of businesses were ran by Jewish people, Upshur said. "They hired people who lived in the community. They hired African American people."

This led to neighborhood kids getting jobs. But as years went on, crime and drugs moved in. The community is now undergoing gentrification. 

"There's not any businesses that I know that, pretty much, is owned by African Americans anymore. So they're not hiring the kids," Upshur explained. "If they had a job in this community, they'd probably would be a lot more respectful to the community and to others."

Upshur hopes to be part of the solution. He's already helped hundreds of kids find their way. His work caught our attention almost a decade ago when he sat down with anchor Ukee Washington.

Even the Phillies took notice, gifting the Strawberry Mansion Learning Center with a new van to transport kids on field trips or a ride to school.

16-year-old Jayvon is one of the school's beneficiaries. Upshur himself pulls up to Jayvon's house just about every morning to take him to school. 

"We've taught him a lot, he's traveled a lot with us," Upshur said. 

Now after school, Jayvon gives back by helping other youth.

"I wanted to transfer that fund to the students," Jayvon said. "Because while they're at a young age you want to show them that they can be something."

According to Upshur, lots of great people have stopped by to pour into his center. This has ranged from teaching cooking classes in their new commercial kitchen to reading a book. 

He hopes these simple acts of kindness will continue Shirley's legacy through the next generation.

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