“There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.”― Jimmy Doolittle
Nancy and I have lived “park side” on Midvale for fifty years this coming June. My earliest memory of the park was looking out our bay window to the meadow. It looked like a fairway. A few short years later, we had a professional photo taken of our daughter, Elizabeth, playing in the park among the yellow ground flowers. The park, however, fell upon bad times later in the 70s and 80s as upkeep was neglected. McMichael Park became a destination for keg-night drinking parties and the Turtle became a target for beer bottles. Drugs were also in evidence, and a dead body was dumped in the park. Police deemed it a bad business deal gone wrong. The centennial year was a brief uptick in the slide.
Help was on the way in the trio of Alexis Franklin, Tom Williams and Keith Shively. My first recollection of their early efforts were Keith and Tom painting and repairing the old in-ground benches and scorching the weeds on the cracks in the sidewalks. The formal Friends group was conceived and established by these best of neighbors. Our active participation in the Love Your Park days have slowed as we age, but our appreciation for the effort has not diminished. It once again looks like a fairway.
A word or two about the Turtle. Our children and now our grandchildren still make periodic trips to visit the Turtle. My son, Daniel, gave us a photo block the chronicles their visits through the years.
Thanks again, Alexis, Tom, Keith and the Friends of McMichael Park for sharing and caring for McMichael Park has been and remains the treasure it is.
Friday, April 24 — The Friends of McMichael Park volunteer group provided lunch to the Philadelphia Police Department 39th District to thank officers for their help and service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Friends of McMichael Park — a community-led organization celebrating 30 years of service and volunteer work this year —partnered with local East Falls neighborhood restaurant Le Bus to come up with a lunch meal to cover three overlapping shifts for the 39th District officers.
Facing a global pandemic, instead of celebrating 2020 with events in the one-square-block of green space that is McMichael Park, all planned anniversary events and gatherings have been cancelled indefinitely.
Recognizing that the current pandemic meant many health professionals and first responders in Philadelphia would be called to maintain their duties in spite of “stay-at-home” orders for the general populous from both Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, and Jim Kenney, Mayor of Philadelphia, the group instead chose to donate where it could to thank those that were protecting residents in the city of Philadelphia during such a difficult time.
“We are obviously disappointed we cannot hold events in the park, especially this year when we have so many in the community to thank for supporting the Friends of McMichael Park group over these past 30 years,” said Alexis Franklin, coordinator for the Friends of McMichael Park group. “But those that are keeping us safe during this time, they should be supported where possible. And we wanted to support both a local business like Le Bus, and the officers of the 39th.”
“No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another.” – Anonymous
Meet Mike Andrews, a conversation with FOMP volunteer and dedicated Pet Rescuer. The Heart and Paw of Pet Adoption during “Love Your Park.”
Sadly, The Friends of McMichael Park are unable to offer their Pet Adoption this year due to the cancellation of Love Your Park/Spring/2020. Mike organized this event for McMichael Park the past three years.
Many shelters aren’t allowing volunteers inside because of the pandemic, but animals are still coming in and need homes. ACCT and PAWS and smaller rescues still need adopters and fosters, and are suffering financially like everyone else. Money is tight for everyone, but if anyone has any to spare, don’t forget the homeless animals.
Below is the republication of an article about Mike and Love Your Park/ McMichael Park that appeared in April 2019.
Love Your Park 2019 at McMichael Park will be hosting a pet adoption from 11:00am to 1pm on May 11th, (rain date May 18th) with thanks to Friends of McMichael Volunteer Mike Andrews. Mike is the organizer for this event. He can often be seen about McMichael Park and around town with many different dogs. Mike sat down for a Q&A as he discusses why he’s involved, why he loves his canine rescues, and why you should stop by the pet adoption in McMichael Park.
Mike, with your evident love of dogs and rescues, are you a pet owner? I had a dog growing up, but I moved around a lot in my 20’s and 30’s and never had a pet of my own as an adult. When I bought my house in East Falls with a little fenced yard I began to think that maybe it was time. I wasn’t sure I was ready but the decision was made for me. Friends of mine found a stray dog and were unable to keep him, so they asked if I would hold him for the weekend while they looked for a permanent home for him. That weekend turned into 14 years with Rufus, my best friend and constant companion.
So is that how you got involved with pet rescues? It kind of happened gradually. Having a dog seems to attract other dogs. We found an unusual number of lost dogs around town and managed to return them all to their homes. We dog sat for friends who traveled for months at a time, and so Sandy joined us. We fostered a dog that was adopted and later found her way back to us, and so we added Pearl to our family. It just seemed logical that we could help others find homes for these lost animals.
And how did you manage to incorporate your pet rescue initiative into your lifestyle?
I began volunteering after I came across a little article in a fitness magazine about The Monster Milers, a group that runs shelter dogs to give them exercise and give them a release from the stress of kennel life. This also provides socialization and exposure they need to find their forever homes. When I realized they were located in Philadelphia I decided to join them. Animal rescue is a community, so once you get involved you tap into a network of conscientious and meaningful people. Through the Monster Milers I developed a love of working with these animals that had fallen on hard times and got to know other people with the same passions. Someone puts out a call for help with a particular situation, and the community comes together to try to find solutions. I guess it is a lifestyle.
What are some of the challenges you experience? I sadly lost both Rufus and Pearl within two months of each other, and the emotional grief of the loss led me to want to do more to help other dogs in their memory. I was asked if I could drive a dog from the local shelter to an outside rescue that was willing to take him in. I had no idea that there was such a thing, but I said yes. I discovered that there was a whole network of people who did these urgently needed transports every day. The overcrowded city shelter relies on rescue groups with available space to take many of their dogs before time and space run out. While the rescues are happy to help when they can, they often have no way to pick up the dog from the shelter, and so Facebook and other social media platforms enables volunteers to come together to arrange transportation. It’s so amazing and gratifying to see the dog relax and change in just the short time you are driving them to their new life. Dogs that seemed terrified of me when I was putting them in my car were licking my face by the end of the ride.
And there must be some successes! What do you find most gratifying? The urgent requests are the most satisfying. There have been a number of dogs whose time had unfortunately run out and needed to leave the shelter that night. I’ve arrived several times with only minutes to spare. Other animals have had life threatening medical situations that needed immediate transport to the Vet, and I’ve literally saved a life. Moyo was a sad case that had a severely injured leg and needed to leave the shelter for care immediately. I rushed over, picked him up, and drove faster than I probably should have to an emergency vet in South Jersey. The rescue director was very thankful for the quick response and we’ve kept in touch. Not long after she called me to ask if I could provide temporary foster for an extreme medical case. What was initially supposed to be a two week stay has become permanent, and now we have Benny Van Gogh, the one-eared wonder dog! Now that’s a success!
So with the prospect of sadness from losses and emergencies, why do you continue? Once you become involved in rescue, it develops a life of its own. People find out you are willing to help and you quickly become the go-to resource. I often hear from friends who have found a dog, have a friend who needs to re-home their pet, or are looking to adopt and want advice. While it was never part of the plan, I’m grateful for the chance I’ve had to contribute in some small way to saving lives and setting many animals on their way to a better future.
” Do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa
We appreciate being included in the 30-year celebration. Steve and I can’t take credit for the dedicated work that these wonderful people have done for so many years in McMichael Park. Our role over the years has been on an informal basis since the park is literally right outside our front door.
Steve had been picking up trash and debris in the park before I even knew him. I can tell you there have been so many times when we were going out in the car and he would spot a piece of trash in the park and he would stop the car and get out and pick it up. I’d have to keep hand wipes in the car at all times; otherwise, we’d have to return home so he could wash his hands. I also picked up trash and debris when I saw it. Steve’s knees have gotten worse over the years and it would be risky for him to do that now because of the unevenness of the ground in the park. After falling last year and fracturing my hip (not in the park) I haven’t been going over there as much. A few weeks ago, however, I was over there tidying things up a bit. I have to say that the park has been looking really good in recent years and I know that is because of the FOMP.
In past years whenever we would spot some activity that looked very questionable and clearly problematic, we would call the police and follow up to make sure they came and checked things out. I remember going over by myself to stop some students who were attacking a park bench. I have been known over the years to go up to someone who didn’t pick up after their dog and offer them a bag after telling them it was wrong. Honestly, things have seemed so much better in recent years. I rarely see people walk their dogs and not pick up. I think people are better now at using the available bags. Also, we haven’t seen questionable or loud activity in quite a while.
I remember raking up leaves in the park with a bunch of FOMP people. I really enjoyed it. I really liked the pumpkin labyrinth. I thought that was a lot of fun. I actually looked forward to going out to buy my pumpkins. I love the Valentine’s Day lovelights. So beautiful! I love the peaceful simple beauty of the park most of all. We have the Friends group to thank for that!
Thanks for all you do! Take care and stay safe during this difficult time for our country.
“Service is the rent we pay for living.” – Marian Wright Edelman
What did you love about volunteering in McMichael Park? Volunteering is FUN! We enjoy meeting up with old friends and new neighbors to rake, plant, prune, and keep McMichael Park the jewel of East Falls, that it is.
What volunteer moment are you most proud of? We are proud to see the spirit of community, as folks of all ages and backgrounds come together in service of our beautiful park. Personally, we love taking care of the holly and feel a sense of accomplishment in its yearly cleaning, pruning, and tending to.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome regarding being a park volunteer? The biggest challenge as park volunteers has been to keep up the pace and intensity of activity as we become older. It’s great to see students, young professionals, and families get involved! How many years did you volunteer in McMichael Park and what inspired you to keep participating? We haven’t kept track of our volunteer time; perhaps it’s been a decade, or two, or three. We love the sense of community spirit that volunteering brings – we get back much more than we give!
What advice do you have for other friends/volunteers? To friends and volunteers in East Falls and beyond – it takes a village to keep McMichael Park beautiful. Thanks to all who do!