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Urban Tree Connection: Community Spotlight
Philly

Urban Tree Connection: Community Spotlight

Inspired by our newest debut column (#ThisWeekI), we love to acknowledge the wonderful organizations that work hard to create environmental awareness, building a better world for us to live in.

This week, I’m shining the community spotlight on Philly’s Urban Tree Connection (UTC).

children working and volunteering with UTC’s partner programs
Photo: UTC; children working and volunteering with UTC’s partner programs

Urban Tree Connection: Local Mission

Philadelphia has an estimated 30,000+ vacant lots, which cover the city like festering blisters of weeds and trash, often attracting unwanted drug and gang activity to low-income neighborhoods.

Urban Tree Connection is a non-profit organization that “engages children and adults from some of Philadelphia’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods in community-based, urban-greening projects”.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.45.26 PM
Photo: UTC; a neighborhood map of revitalized vacant lots

Urban Tree Connection’s mission is to help low-income urban communities rebuild their neighborhoods. By converting abandoned lots into safe havens and operational gardens, they inspire positive human interaction, promote communal living, and beautify neighborhoods.

It’s crucial to involve neighborhood children in this process because they are the future, so UTC works hard to educate them about urban reforestation and urban gardening.

Since 2006, Urban Tree Connection has grown vegetables as part of their Growing Healthy initiative, a gardening and health education program that endorses the advantages of healthy eating and physical activity. The urban gardens provide a wonderful variety of economic, environmental, health-related and social benefits for the involved community.

How can you get involved?

Anyone can donate or volunteer at Urban Tree Connection.

UTC offers three different types of volunteer activities:
  1. helping to create and sponsor neighborhood-based Youth & Children’s gardening clubs.
  2. promoting revitalization projects for vacant lots in the community
  3. organizing community-based improvement projects

CHILDREN PROGRAMS (4-18 yrs): Each After-school and summer children’s program takes an informal approach to educational enrichment, fostering creative play, discovery and active learning in a natural setting.

  • Pearl & Conestoga Street Garden Club: This club tends the seasonal vegetable garden, berry patches, fruit orchard and native plantings at 55th and Pearl Streets. Children and families meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-6pm during the growing season April through October.
  • Teens-Go-Green at The Memorial Garden: Teens apprentice under the supervision of experienced UTC landscaping staff by maintaining our 10 Haddington gardens sites while developing the job skills and behaviors needed to secure future employment. Program runs on Wednesdays from 4-6pm in West Philadelphia.
  • Pennsgrove Garden Club: This program allows children to meet weekly to tend to a garden, visit Neighborhood Foods central farm, and engage in hands-on environmental learning activities. Wednesdays from 4-6pm April through October.
  • Sickels Street: Children and teens can help maintain the Sickels Street Garden, a learning garden site with perennials and seasonal produce beds. Meets in West Philadelphia on Wednesdays from 4-6pm.

TEEN PROGRAMS: Each program helps teens to apprentice under the supervision of experienced UTC landscaping staff, and developing trade skills and behaviors needed to secure future employment in the field of landscaping and gardening.

  • The VeggieKids: This program allows pre-teen and teen (10-14 yrs) entrepreneurs to germinate, plant, tend, harvest, clean, weigh, record, package and distribute food to the local residents in Haddington and North-Central Philadelphia.
  • Teens-Go-Green: Teens participate in a citywide landscaping and lawn services program, which can provide an apprenticeship and wages to help future employment.
Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 3.23.53 PM
Photo: UTC; teens volunteer to clear a abandoned lot before converting it into a community garden

PARTNER PROGRAMS: UTC connects with other community organizations and non-profits to provide maximum learning and gardening opportunities.

  • Project Home: UTC meets with two groups of students at Project H.O.M.E. weekly to manage a seasonal vegetable garden near the Honickman Learning Center.
  • Young Scholars Frederick Douglass Charter School: UTC staff meets Young Scholars twice a week to maintain a small urban farm built on a section of the school playground to teach children the art of farming.

URBAN FARMING: All UTC urban farming projects supply vegetables to CSA members and community-subsidized farmers market and into the Rittenhouse Square farmers market.

  • Neighborhood Foods CSA: Volunteers and hired teens are used to work the fully-functioning urban farm in Haddington. Along with learning landscaping and agricultural skills, volunteers and teens can participate in vegetarian cooking demonstrations.
  • Anita’s Garden: UTC staff supervises a raised-food garden where children can grow produce to be channeled into the Neighborhood Foods cooperative.
  • Haddington Townhouse Community Gardens: These community gardens and learning farms provide 10 raised beds of supplement food production for Neighborhood Foods.

PERENNIAL GARDENS: UTC’s community perennial gardens were constructed to both displace drug houses that block captains had removed, and to give seniors a place to sit and enjoy the outdoors in safe and secure gardens.

  • The Seniors’ Rose Garden: A wonderful rose garden is located at 5307 Parrish Street. It is open for community use and always looking for volunteers to help maintain the rose bushes.
  • Sickels Street Garden: A nice reflection garden at 5427 Haverford Avenue open the neighborhood is upheld and replanted by any who wish to volunteer.
  • Lemoyne’s Garden: A walking garden at 5401 Westminster Avenue is open while preserved by community volunteers.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.17.26 PM

If you want additional information, email UTC or call (215) 877-7203.

 

Readers, what do you think about UTC? Who should our next local spotlight shine upon?

Become a Supporter!

If you love what we do you can support our mission with a one-time or monthly contribution.
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Grace Rieck
Originally from Rochester, New York, Grace studies Communications at Saint Joseph’s University. Green from birth, she grew up wearing reusable cloth diapers and eating co-op vegetables. She's always been conscious of humanity’s impact on the environment. She hopes to eventually form a career as a way to advocate her ethical & sustainability principles. View all posts by Grace Rieck

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