He teamed up with former 76ers shooting guard Kyle Korver, now with the Atlanta Hawks, to run a program for needy young people out of the Helping Hand Rescue Mission in North Philadelphia, steps from the Spring Garden Apartments, which are part of the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
"Food, money, clothes is what concerns people here," Bruckner said. "There is just so much poverty."
In his life before working with the poor, Bruckner embraced insidious stereotypes about them: "They hate work, sponge off the government, and don't care about their kids."
Then Bruckner, who has a shaved head and wears T-shirts that the young people he mentors cover with drawings and writings, renounced his old mindset. "I now know the stereotypes are garbage," he says. "And I have a responsibility after 20 years of stupidity to understand."
Known for founding Philly Restart, which feeds the homeless on the Parkway and gets them IDs to help them vote and find jobs, Bruckner also earned some notoriety when President George W. Bush gave him an award in 2009 for performing volunteer work in the city.
Bruckner even garnered national renown for helping Philadelphia homicide detectives solve the murder of 60-year-old Josephine Angelo, whose remains were found hanging in a tree near the Spring Garden Street Bridge in July 2002. Bruckner, who had ministered to Angelo, gathered evidence linking the slaying to Red Colt, a then-66-year-old homeless man he also knew. Colt is serving life in prison.
These days, Bruckner revels in his role as "Mr. Adam," an unlikely but beloved role model for young people at the apartments.
He says his electronic pencil sharpener is his best anti-poverty weapon:
"You don't sharpen your pencils to do your math homework in the third grade, you're in trouble the rest of your life."
Bruckner tutors, fills out forms, goes to court with kids in trouble, takes youngsters to baseball games, listens to their problems. He works with 100 children in kindergarten through eighth grade.
"Mr. Adam is an angel God just dropped from the skies," said Montae Ballard, a 19-year-old interviewed in a documentary about the neighborhood. "It don't make sense what he'll do for people."
What struck Bruckner when he first got to Penn Town 11 years ago was the noise. Many poor families live doubled up, and apartments are loud and kinetic, with people coming in and out at all hours.
"The kids here stay up late, not watching cartoons but because of the noises in the house," Bruckner said. "There's no quiet to do homework. They share beds. And a lot of them don't eat breakfast and fall asleep a lot in school."
Walk past the charmless, three-story brick boxes of apartments and some of that noise leaks out - the endless electronic chirpping of smoke alarms with dead batteries no one can afford to replace.
Such piercing aural assaults echo throughout poor neighborhoods, Bruckner learned. He, conversely, was brought up in a quiet house in Wisconsin, where he owned a set of encyclopedias and all the sharp pencils he could handle.
After his playing days ended and his devotion to Jesus took hold, Bruckner stopped blaming the poor for their poverty, and came to embrace what he heard a preacher once say in a sermon:
After a car accident, the police come and want to know who's at fault. The paramedics come, and they don't care. They just want to help.
"For me now," Bruckner said, the question is only, "How can I help?"
On a small playground outside the Spring Garden Apartments, Bruckner played catch with Montae Ballard and three young girls one afternoon under a bright August sun. The girls never stopped laughing.
"The kids love this guy," said Pastor Matthew Gallashaw, executive director of the mission. "They never had a problem relating to him because they're African American and he's white. From the start, it was a marriage between the kids and him. He has a heart for these children."
Bruckner is especially close to Ballard, who works for him as a youth counselor. A bearish young man with sad eyes, Ballard still mourns his brother Wayne, shot in March 2011. The unsolved killing is believed to be part of a feud between Penn Town and Richard Allen Homes, a better-appointed PHA development a few blocks north, said Philadelphia Police Capt. Brian Korn of the Sixth District.
A Father's Day shooting in the area in which a 27-year-old man was killed may have been related to the bad blood, Korn said.
Still, he added, Penn Town is less violent than other North Philadelphia neighborhoods.
Along with financial poverty, residents endure social poverty, Bruckner said - a lack of tools to build fully functional lives.
To document the lack, Bruckner bought cameras for some of the children, paid for by the former Sixer Korver, himself a Christian on a mission to improve the world.
Bruckner asked Allentown filmmaker Amanda Danziger to make a documentary with the footage. The Backyard Philly Project will be screened at the FirstGlance Film Fest next month at the Franklin Institute.
"Adam really fights for these kids," Danziger said. "He gives you this hope that someone could make a difference."
That's Bruckner's wish. Validation that he's succeeding came late one night on the street from a local drug dealer, of all people, after Bruckner had put up a basketball court paid for by Korver.
"I've been watching you for a year," the dealer told a startled Bruckner in the darkness. He said he was suspicious of the white guy trying to save North Philly.
"But after you put up the court, I cried," the dealer said. "I knew you cared."
Bruckner is grateful for that midnight benediction. But he's aware there's a tough slog ahead.
"I know many children here are going to have rough lives," he said. "At the very least, we want to make these young years great for them. But in poverty, the path out is never easy."
Contact Alfred Lubrano at 215-854-4969 or email@example.com.