By KYW community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — “My faith calls me to really serve my community, to love our neighbors,” says Harry Leong.

And service has been his guiding light.

A Philadelphia native, Leong joined the Philadelphia Suns, a Chinatown-based organization that promotes athletics and community involvement — when he was 12 years old.  He played basketball and other sports in Chinatown, eventually becoming involved in the community himself.

“The Suns were like a group of brothers that really helped me along the way,” says Leong, who says the organization gave him an outlet.  He says his parents, like many in the immigrant community, worked very long hours, so the Suns became a second family.

“They did so much for me,” Leong recalls.

Fast forward 38 years, and today Leong is president of the Philadelphia Suns.  He coaches basketball and other sports, and organizes an annual Chinese “lion dance.”  He says his goal is to help immigrant families hold onto their Chinese culture while embracing America.

“A lot of my kids come to our community because it’s a safe place,” he adds.

(Children do their homework at an after-school program run by the Philadelphia Suns.  Photo by Cherri Gregg)

(Children do their homework at an after-school program run by the Philadelphia Suns. Photo by Cherri Gregg)

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Leong says Chinese kids that emigrate to America can have a hard time.  He says their inability to speak English well or their lack of understanding of American culture can draw bullies, so kids from all over the region participate in Suns’ activities.  It also attracts kids whose immigrant parents spend long hours at work, trying to support their families.

“I rarely meet any parents,” Leong notes.  “A lot of these kids come out on their own, and I often see myself being the parent for the kid.”

Leong also does outreach for the Chinese Christian Church, at 10th and Spring Streets.  He runs the church’s after-school programs, ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) classes, organizes volunteers, and arranges other events.

“My job is really to build bridges between our church and community,” says Leong. “I see this as an opportunity for me to give back.”

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Follow Cherri Gregg on Twitter: @cherrigregg
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Know someone in your community who cares enough to give back? Nominate them for KYW Newsradio news coverage at communityaffairs@kyw.com!