Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteer: Cynthia Kishinchand

“He that does good for good’s sake seeks neither paradise nor reward, but he is sure of both in the end.” – William Penn

In July, 1970, my husband Kumar and I looked at a East Falls house for sale. We drove from Center City along billboard free East River Drive, now Kelly Drive. The hustle and bustle of the city seemed far away. Driving up Midvale Avenue I took in the sights of St. Bridget Church, the Falls of Schuylkill Library, and the trees and greenery by Thomas Mifflin School. Then, what to my wandering eyes appeared, but McMichael Park. Forty-nine years later t’is a rare day  I don’t comment how lucky we were to move into this now ninety-nine year-old abode which is a one minute-walk from this green oasis.

As time passed, I learned the challenges facing Fairmount Park, now part of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, and local residents to maintain the site and to keep it safe. Thanks to Alexis Franklin, Keith Shively, and Tom Williams who thirty years ago founded Friends of McMichael Park (FOMP), I realized with love, collaboration, planning, and hard work, people could make sure this part of William Penn’s “Greene Countrie Towne” would be a beautiful, shady, restful, safe, public space for people of all ages to enjoy for centuries to come.   

My contributions have been modest compared to those of others. I have picked up trash and painted benches on “Love Your Park Day’ events. As time passed I realized this was a perfect spot for Mifflin students to learn about trees. Fast forward: thanks to grants to East Falls Tree Tenders (EFTT) from the Philadelphia Activities Fund (PAF) and East Falls Community Council (EFCC), hundreds of Mifflin students have learned about trees and nature from Bartram’s Garden educators. Yes, I see every youngster as a future tree tender and park protector.

Other unexpected pleasures included acquiring two “Doggie-Pots” from the Schuylkill Environmental Center so visitors with dogs would always have access to a bag for their pets’ feces. Then there was the matter of the Champion Pawlonia tree whose welfare concerned me. With the approval of FOMP and EFTT, I applied for a PAF grant to cable the at-risk branches of this Champion tree. Once again, generosity prevailed and Bartlett Tree Service did the work pro bono and EFTT was permitted to use the grant for the school programs. Then Mayor Edward G Rendell choose McMichael Park as his favorite spot when East Falls Tree Tenders raised money and planted a tree in his honor.

Twelve years ago… came Shakespeare. Thanks to FOMP volunteers who wrote grants, I had the opportunity to help promote the Bard of Avon during the 11 years Commonwealth Theatre presented his and other works for free to the public productions. I am sure William would have loved the setting as much as everyone else did.

So, do you see what I see?

Do you see volunteers planting and caring for the garden plots, hauling water for trees, painting benches, raking leaves, picking up trash and fallen branches? In May, do you see the Morton the Turtle welcoming young and old to the Memorial Day event?  In February, do you see the glow of Love Lights? In December, do you see folks singing Christmas Carols?  On winter night do you look toward the sky and see snowflakes falling?  In autumn do you see leaves turn to shades of yellow, orange, and red?  Throughout the year do you see dog walkers, parents and children kicking a soccer ball, people sitting under trees having a picnic or reading a book?

My hope: For current and future residents is to continue to work with FOMP and PP&R to sustain this undeveloped space so it continues to be the calming public site we all need all seasons of the year.

Turtle News: June/July – 2020

Summer 2020 has brought a number of park activities in McMichael Park. Many folks have created their own play of sports, music/guitar playing, family picnics and small gatherings of “hanging out” while keeping the social distance. It is great to see the undertaking of so many adventures. As the coordinator of the Friends of McMichael Park I also appreciate seeing such pride in personal clean up and care that is taken. Thank you. Alexis Franklin – Coordinator FOMP

Anniversary Trees! In light of the 30th Anniversary of the Friends of McMichael Park, Three Trees were planted each one representing a decade of volunteer service. The Trees are quite substantial and getting their weekly watering by our two “Water Guys” FOMP volunteers, Robert Rabinowitz and Geoff Brock. Robert was kind enough to run hoses from his home to keep the trees doused with 20 gallons of water per week. Thanks to PP&R for providing the tree guards.

Pictured below is the Red Maple/Red Sunset, which is a cultivar with superior fall color and good branch structure. It should grow to about 45-50 feet high.

A “Little Leaf Linden” “Tilia Cordata” was also planted. This tree will have a small yellow-green flower that offers a rich heavy scent and will grow about 60 feet.

The third tree planted is an American Sycamore. It has a “mottled” bark which distinguishes it from other trees. This tree can grow to massive proportions of up to 130 feet high and 13 feet in diameter.

All Three trees will provide abundance of shade and enjoyment as you watch it grow and change during the different seasons. They will be a lasting legacy of the years of volunteering from the Friends of McMichael Park. Happy 30th Anniversary.

On June 8th there was a peaceful protest in McMichael Park. Below is some overhead footage from the evening. Thank you to David S. for filming this great footage. Please click on the “pop-out” button in upper right corner to view the video.

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteer: John-david Franklin

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin

What did you love about volunteering in McMichael Park?

            I have been an advocate of environmental consciousness for all of my adult life.  Having grown up in a culture of volunteerism and “save the planet,” green space is a neighborhood imperative.  McMichael Park is a haven of green, peace, and calm in an otherwise confused and chaotic world. Living in the city, East Falls is the natural green space outside of Center City.  Throughout the 40 years I lived in East Falls, it was essential and basically a requirement that “giving back” is the most important part of community engagement.  Do I love the obligation? Absolutely, with steadfast determination we must preserve the green canopy and by default McMichael was my green space, open air center, of choice.

What volunteer moment are you are most proud of?

         Where to start? The very first clean up? Bob Brano, a former neighbor and early member of the Friends, and I literally mowed the grass in the Park. The first plantings? Digging tree pits and watching these saplings mature and contribute to the green canopy. I was a founding member of the Development Corporation and we literally created the Flea Market. Got my old band back together and we played at one of the Park events. All the “Love-Your-Park” events? Lovelights? The Hymn Sing? The Pumpkin Labyrinth? Shakespeare and providing “free” theatre! The parades? Especially the baby parades! Most memorable? For me it was cleaning up the War Memorial and putting out Flags on Flag Day.  I distinctly remember 9/11 and its subsequent anniversaries.  Many times I would stand in front of our most impressive and iconic memorial architecture and consider all of our neighbors, friends, and family whose memory is embodied with those stones.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome regarding being a park volunteer?  

            Challenges are not overcome individually and so the teamwork and collaboration of the many is vital and necessary. We have endured natural and manmade catastrophe’s, but all-in-all The Friends have remained strong and determined. I do see a challenge and that is something that all groups face: training the next generation, whether X, Y, or Z, and a beneficial succession plan. McMichael Park is one a very few green gems in our City.  Other Parks and Friends groups have deep pockets and considerable endowments.  Ours is a labor of love.  In the eyes of Parks & Recreation, The Friends of McMichael Park is notable, well respected in City Hall and the Municipal Services Building, and the case study for open space and park management.  With the budget short falls from COVID anyone or group who was expecting funding may not get funding of any kind.

How many years did you volunteer in McMichael Park and what inspired you to keep participating?

            After almost 40 years in the proverbial flower beds, I realized that conservation means protection and sustainability equates to responsibility to the environment. The corner of Henry and Coulter was an eyesore when I started helping the Friends.  And so, assessing the magnitude of the cleanup, the engagement of the then Department of Recreation and the Fairmount Park Commission, I volunteered, cleaned up the corner and continued to provide the necessary sweat equity that was required. Many followed, stayed, and look at what we have today!

What advice do you have for other friends/volunteers?

            We are facing a future with the “blankest” canvas we could ever imagine. But also, COVID-19 catapulted us into the reality that was inevitable. There is no money; hence, dig deeper, literally and proverbially, and get your back into it. There will be a prolonged time of limited resources; hence, cultivate a new generation of volunteers (very hard, but necessary). No idea is a bad idea. Time for new thinking and methodologies.

            We are not social theorists, political pundits, or epidemiologists. That goes without saying, but the words of Benjamin Franklin ring true today as they did in the 18th century: “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

FOMP: 30th Anniversary Masks…get one while they last!

Friends of McMichael Park Volunteers, Frances Bourne (left) and Bill Hoffner (right) sporting their masks as part of the 30th year of stewardship!

As part of the 30th Anniversary of the Friends of McMichael a new accessory was created which is sign of the times. Our masks in green (of course) with our custom turtle logo is being sported around the neighborhood. A limited number of masks are available for sale. ($12.00 each plus S&H) When the masks are sold out then they are gone. If interested in purchasing, please contact lexy3904@gmail.com. Proceeds go the Friends of McMichael Park. Stay safe where ever you are….Thank you.

Meet Our Amazing FOMP Volunteer: Allison Hirst-O’Callaghan

“Don’t ever question the value of volunteers. Noah’s Ark was built by volunteers; the Titanic was built by professionals.” – Unknown

What did you love about volunteering in McMichael Park?
I appreciated the improvement of this community treasure, which had become neglected throughout the 1970-80s. I played in the Park as a kid and partied in the Park as a teen, so it was a coming of age moment in 1990 when Bill and I moved (back) to Midvale Avenue and took a little ownership of this unique green space.

What volunteer moment are you most proud of?
I remember painting the green benches for a number of years early on and mulching the ground around them. It was an immediate visual improvement and we were proud to be a part of the changes. My grandpop used to rest on those benches in the 1960-70s while taking walks; they offer a clean quiet place in our community for visitors passing through by bus. I always admire evidence of spring clean up after Love Your Park Day, with newly planted colorful flowers and the addition of a variety of trees.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome regarding being a park volunteer?
As I aged, I struggled to always participate in Park improvements while keeping up
my own property. I often wished more Fallsers and newcomers to the community would
see the benefit of contributing a few hours now and then, recognizing McMichael Park
as our shared natural space.

How many years did you volunteer in McMichael Park and what inspired you to keep participating?

Bill and I began to participate in the early 1990s but were not always consistent. I’ve been inspired by those who continue to maintain the Park for the benefit of everyone. It’s a wonderful and gratifying way to meet your neighbors. My most recent contributions involved watering a newly planted evergreen through summer and fall, assuring its health as it took root. I also filled the “Doggy-Pot” boxes for about three years, a job that seems silly until dog-owners find themselves without a bag!

What advice do you have for other friends/volunteers?
Don’t be shy, just jump in and introduce yourself to neighbors … friends you have yet to meet. Reach out to a few of the FOMP “old timers” and ask about the scheduled workdays or what you can do on your own. Pick up trash, plant a flowerbed, participate in Park socials and introduce your children to fun and service. No one is ever too young or old to be a valued neighbor!

Allison Hirst-O’Callaghan (right) enjoying Love Your Park Day in McMichael with fellow volunteer Frances Bourne. They are having too much fun!!!

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteer: Beth Gross-Eskin

“You’ll end up having more, if you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey

What did you love about volunteering in McMichael Park?
I love the opportunity to serve my community and volunteer for a wonderful cause. Spending time with neighbors, sharing the same passion and interest in preservation for our neighborhood park is quite fulfilling. We all have the same goal in mind to provide perpetual care for this green oasis in our neighborhood! I like the welcoming feeling that the FOMP extends to anyone who wants to volunteer.


What volunteer moment are you most proud of?


My favorite activity is decorating the Lovelights tree for Valentine’s Day. A small group of us gather on a cold February morning to spread red lights all over the tree. It is quite the challenge, but we are determined to make the lights look just right. With ladders, poles  and a creative eye, we work as a team and engage in this time honored tradition. When we are done we take a group selfie and revel in a job well done! This is a feel-good project and wonderful act of kindness that not only raises funds for the park, but also brings the community together.

I have adopted one of corner gardens in the park at Henry and Midvale.  To help me, I made a request on Nextdoor.com for perennials that could be donated from personal gardens to the garden I was tending. I was thrilled to receive so many donations from neighbors and when I picked up each of the plants, I had the opportunity to meet new neighbors and share the mutual love of gardening.


What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome regarding being a park volunteer?  

I don’t feel there has been any real challenge to volunteer, but do regret that I didn’t become a volunteer sooner! I have learned a lot about the running of the park and that it truly takes a village to make it the beautiful space that it is. Together we organize Love Your Park Day, plan community gatherings, and promote our mission to help others learn about the value of an open green space where all can run, play, and relax! How many years did you volunteer in McMichael Park and what inspired you to keep participating?

I am a newbie to the group and officially started volunteering in the spring of 2016. Back in 2008, I answered a call to plant flowers around The War Memorial and I loved planting and watering the flowers through the growing season. I have always enjoyed going to the park with my children, doggies and my grandson for many, many years. It’s my happy place!  Now that I am a volunteer, it makes me appreciate the park even more so it’s easy to want to help make it be the best place possible.


What advice do you have for other friends/volunteers?
Come and join the fun! Working together as a community to preserve and protect this precious space takes a commitment to volunteer more than just one day of service. It can be a life-long investment to ensure that the park remains as it is and not return to the derelict place that it was 30 years ago. I am confident that this is possible to achieve with a little help from our friends! In my work with FOMP I’m always reminded of this Oprah Winfrey quote: “You’ll end up having more, if you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Volunteering can help remind us how fortunate we are to have such a wonderful park in our community and that it is important for us all to strive to keep it an open and welcoming space for all”

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteer: Virginia Hayes

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy…when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” – Anonymous

I started volunteering in McMichael Park when the Millennium Grove was established along with Two Kousa Dogwoods as part of the “Gift for All Seasons” program. The day after the trees were planted a motorcycle driver lost control of his bike and jump the curb and hit one of the brand new trees. I knew the trees were going to need help. I tend to the tree pits, watered and mulched them for years and now…. it is twenty years later and the trees are thriving.

I am not always able to officially participate in the service days. I do more cleaning up in the park after windy days and storms as needed. I will be over there cleaning up the dogwoods this spring. I am more inclined to take care of things as I see the need.

I’ve lived park side since 1979 and have loved having such a beautiful view from my front patio. Our boys and their friends spent hours in the park playing volleyball and football, and enjoying the freedom of open space.I grew up in a small town where having access to green areas is a common asset.

For me to have such an opportunity in the city, is truly a gift. I hope it remains just as it is.