Shirley Washington, Florrie Flood and Jocelyn Powell, volunteers for AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, were outside Bredenbeck's Bakery and Ice Cream Parlor in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia to rally support against changes to Medicare. Backed by a large sign featuring the diverse faces of its constituency (50 plus demographic), one volunteer explained their presence as a way to acquaint the community with AARP while another spoke earnestly about how prescription drug costs, higher premiums and higher deductibles negatively affect Social Security pensioners. "Health care is just outrageous." They invited your correspondent inside to sign a petition to my Congressmen and enjoy a free ice cream cone! I obliged. Watch video interview here.
Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County, PA supported by a coalition of community partners including AmeriCorps National Community Service members along with sweat equity put in by the Thompson family made a home of their own in Pottstown, PA a reality for the Thompsons. This is a short video collage of the dedication celebration.
Lynn Landes, founder of the Wild Foodies of Philadelphia joins with Chef Jeff Miller of the eponymous catering company to forage for wild plants in the fields of the Weavers Way Coop farm at Awbury Arboretum. The plants, which Lynn doesn't like to call weeds although they are generally considered so, were to appear in the salad of a dinner that very evening to benefit the arboretum. Miller sampled some succulent-like purslane which he describes being crunchy and also some carpet weed which your correspond concurs has a strong, mushroomy flavor. These, wood sorrel other "weeds" were all competing for purchase in the fertile soil where the farmers had planted onions for harvest months later. Landes takes the zealot's stance that only wild plants and animals, free for the taking are a sustainable source of food because agriculture of any kind requires ongoing maintenance. Watch video here.
A mother and daughter, Bea Weidner and Emily Linso (not shown in this photo) took time to smell the roses in the bright and fragrant heritage rose garden at Wyck. A national landmark, Wyck, is the ancestral estate of the Wistar-Haines family located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Development Director Kristin Hagar (above at table) welcomed people to a "Celebration of the Roses" open house and explained that heritage roses are generally brighter and have a more potent fragrance than modern roses, but last a shorter time. She welcomes the public to nominate locations where a Wyck heritage rose might be planted for the public to enjoy. Video here.
Your correspondent volunteered for a week cleaning dishes and bathhouses at the Audubon Society Camp on Hog Island off of Bremen, Maine. He collected an old glass bottle encrusted with barnacles and these stories. See photo slideshow here.
A large aquarium in the lab building of Hog Island affords a micro view of aquatic life in coastal Maine’s tidal pools. Off the pier, swaying mats of seaweed. Watch video here.
“Puffin” Pete Salmansohn, Project Puffin outreach coordinator and director of Hog Island Educators week, describes how puffins were saved from near extermination from the Maine Coast on a boat trip out to Eastern Egg Rock Island where island sitters carefully monitor and study them. Along the way, seals sunning themselves on a small island, produce whoops and hollers among the day-trippers as they dive into the water toward the boat to investigate or perhaps be fed? Watch video here.
On Hog Island, early morning guided birding, a photographer and his camera level with the osprey nest, an osprey parent guarding two fledglings and later the same day foraying out and back. Watch video montage here.
“Seabird” Sue Schubel, Project Puffin Outreach Instructor and Hog Island Camp Coordinator, puts the finishing touches on a large batch of cream “puffins.” They will be served to oohs and ahs and camera flashes at the conclusion of the farewell lobster dinner for Educators week. The confectionary puffins, like their living counterparts, Schubel says, could be either male or female, as they look the same. Their breeding plumage, bright orange bills, mark them as mature adults. Watch video here.
Susan Spitzer Williams, a career guidance specialist participating in Educators Week on Hog Island, seen here rushing to get her camera to the photogapher and back in place for a group shot. In the video, she pauses before swimming to share one of the many ways in which she is superior to her dear older brother, Nick Spitzer, host of the widely syndicated, public radio program, “American Routes.” For one, she met and played pool with Muddy Waters and he didn’t. Watch video here.
A short, live action, instructional video for kitchen volunteers at the Hog Island camp on how to use the Hobart 4 sided, hood mounted, pass through, commercial dishwasher. Watch video here.
She’s been skinning road kill, preparing pelts, skull specimens and mounts for museums for some time but this was Carolyn Zaino’s first beaver. Discovered by a couple Hog Island staffers, the road kill became the object of Zaino’s artistry and industry in between stints in the Hog Island kitchen. Zaino is nonplussed by the gore and gruesomeness of her vocation as befits the pathologist’s daughter for whom, as a child, the hearts, lungs and brains in her father’s lab were naturally things of wonder. Her work lets her give these animals “another life” and educate people about them. Watch short video here. Watch full-length video here.
Victoria Carrillo solicits memberships and petition signatures door-to-door in Chestnut Hill for the Clean Air Council of Philadelphia. The long established organization advocates for recyclling, bike trails, fracking restrictions and such to combat air pollution and its serious effects like widespread childhood asthma. Watch video interview here.
On the eve before Christmas Eve, Paul Rossetti was standing in the rain at the corner of Highland and Germantown Avenues hawking “One Step Away” newspapers for a $1 each. (small photo at right) And he has been working this and other corners in the city throughout January despite the bitter cold and light pedestrian traffic. (above photo)
Rossetti grew up around the Pottstown area and got involved in drinking and drugs through the influence of peer pressure. DUIs (driving under the influence convictions) landed him time in jail. He’s now living at the Germantown Y men’s home.
According to its website, “One Step Away is Philadelphia's first street paper aimed at raising awareness of homelessness and providing employment to those in need. With each dollar received, 75¢ goes directly to the vendor. The other 25¢ covers the printing costs. The vendors are people experiencing homelessness or joblessness. While the vast majority of One Step Away vendors are living on the street or in temporary shelters when they start with the project, most are able to use the money earned by distributing One Step Away to secure their own housing.” http://osaphilly.com/
Rossetti says he’s going to NA and AA meetings and trying to stay on his feet and keep busy. Rules at the Y are strict; if he should come back high or drunk, he would be given 15 minutes to vacate his room. With janitorial and construction experience, Rossetti hopes to find work and secure an apartment of his own. Eventually he would like go into business for himself.
The name, “One Step Away” is meant to highlight how so many people in society are close to becoming homeless through unforeseen financial and personal crises. At the same time, the name honors the major step the formerly homeless individuals who are producing and distributing the paper have taken away from a life on the street.
(Above, volunteer Marilou Buffum)
Dozens of volunteers showed up on Saturday to help remove invasive plants and debris from newly acquired Philadelphia parkland in Mount Airy.
Efforts of the Wissahickon East Project spearheaded by Antje Mattheus who lives nearby at the 2 acre historical Cresheim Farm, along with the Friends of the Wissahickon, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, and ultimately Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation headed by Michael DeBerardinis, helped spare the overgrown six-acre woody tract abutting the Cresheim Creek from private residential development.
Work began in earnest on rehabilitating the site and creating a quarter mile loop trail under the direction of David Bower, Fairmount Park Volunteer Coordinator.
(Below, Volunteer Rick Greenstein)
Twenty five percent of Philadelphians live below the poverty level. This somber statistic was delivered last night to hundreds of diners, along with delicious soups and breads donated by dozens of restaurants and caterers, at the Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network’s 15th annual “Empty Bowl Dinner” held at the Lutheran Theological Seminary.
Through a large network of religious congregations and volunteers, the Network (“NPIHN”) provides emergency and transitional housing and support services to families facing homelessness, like the Baez family, now “alumni”, who recounted their continuing personal struggle to support themselves and stay together as a family.
Amy Hsu came by our house in her car to pick up a tall bookcase. She had seen my post on the popular Northwest Philly Freecycle website, where people give and get things –for free!
I had trash-picked the sturdy bookcase just a couple days before but then realized I could not use it as planned. Hsu says her husband may use it for his beer brewing containers and supplies. Hsu is an enthusiast of the free online exchange. Through notices on the website she recently gave away a couch and a chair and dug up a plant from an offeror’s yard. She likes when she gets “repeats” like the woman who had given her cinderblocks who, thinking of her grandkids, responded to Hsu's offer of stuffed animals.
NW Philly Freecycle, a moderated website, was launched in 2004 by Meenal Raval and the Mount Airy Greening Network (MAGNET) as an offshoot of the citywide Philly Freecycle. It boasts over 5000 members and in April alone hosted 610 posts, a combination of “Offer”, “Wanted”, “Taken” and “Curb Alerts” for all kinds of household items imaginable.