Turtle News: September 2020 Back to School in McMichael Park- Signs of Positivity

by Alexis Franklin

The Friends of McMichael Park were unable to offer any of our planned events this year, but as students head back to school, McMichael Park will be activated with an educational twist. It has been a challenging year and no one can put a pin in this pandemic. Now is the time when a new school year begins and students are being asked to adjust to a new normal.

Jefferson University Cleans Up McMichael Park

On August 21st, The Friends of McMichael Park hosted ten incoming Jefferson University students lead by team leader/senior Alaina McIlhenney. The students — all wearing face masks, and armed with bags, gloves and trash grabbers — traversed the park and picked up trash and stockpiled branches at various corners. It was a hot Friday afternoon but for two hours the students enjoyed the open green space as they got to know one another. Fun fact: Several of the students walked over from the Ravenhill campus where they had just moved in. They had a laugh when they heard they were housed in the old classroom of FOMP Coordinator, Alexis Franklin where she attended high school. Thanks to Louise McShane for her organizing efforts mobilizing the new students into the neighborhood.

Middle and High School Students from William Penn Charter Join In

The William Penn Charter School students will return for a new semester the first week in September, and are planning to hold outdoor classrooms in McMichael Park on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. This will include meditation and yoga classes to be held in the open meadow. On Friday afternoons the group will offer a community service hour, where students will bring rakes and shovels to McMichael Park for regular cleanup. FOMP will supply bags and gloves, while students keep McMichael Park looking good and green. Thanks to Tom Rickards from Penn Charter for partnering with the Friends of McMichael Park.

Don’t Forget the Little Ones

“Music with Gina” will begin early September on Wednesday mornings. Some may remember Gina when she performed with her band at Love Your Park in May/2018. FOMP volunteer Geoff Brock recommends Gina, saying, “She’s such a talented, positive, cheerful performer and has the kids in motion and memorizing the songs.” Something tells us that Geoff is the biggest kid in the class. Gina requested McMichael Park, and saying, “It would be awesome to be more free and have lots and lots of space to keep everyone at least six feet apart on their blankets.” FOMP agrees that McMichael Park is an awesome green space. Music with babies/toddlers and their caregivers. Bring a blanket, instrument, and scarf! Class begins at 10:00 AM every Wednesday.

Web Site: www.musicwithgina.com 

Instagram: @musicwithgina

Facebook: Music with Gina

Signs of Positivity….Appreciate the outdoor signs that were funded by a group of neighbors to honor the Friends of McMichael Park as part of its 30th Year Anniversary.

Stay up to date with the Friends of McMichael Park:

Facebook: FriendsOfMcmichaelPark

Instagram: friendsofmcmichael

From Philadelphia Parks and Recreation – Wednesday, September 9th at 6:00 PM
Dear Park Friends, 

The Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Fairmount Park Conservancy Stewardship Team is excited to invite you to our second online Park Friends Network Meeting on Wednesday, September 9th at 6:00 PM!
To join the meeting, please follow these steps: Click here to register for the meeting. Enter your name (as it will be seen on the screen), and email address. You will then receive a confirmation email with the meeting link. On the day of the meeting just click on that meeting link to join. Note: If you have not used Zoom before, you will be prompted to download their software (or App if you are joining via smartphone). 
The agenda will cover several important topics, including: COVID-19 Update, Love Your Park Fall Service Day, Parks & Rec Operations Update, and PFN Park Field Trips (formerly known as PFN Bus Tour)

Turtle News: August 2020 Summer Days Keep Drifting Away…

Day lilies ready to bloom at our entrance sign at Henry & Midvale Avenues during the heat wave of 2020.
A heatwave has certainly hit Philadelphia this past month. Park users find a respite in the shade. Picnics, scooters and just plain lounging have been what folks are searching for in our McMichael Park open green space.
Conference Calls are much better in the park with furry friends. A recent park bench was listed for repair and a sycamore tree dropped some major branches was reported and inspected.

Looks like the Ladybugs win this one! Tic-Tac-Toe for Two created in McMichael Park for all to enjoy. Pop up – FUN!

Our McMichael Park Turtle celebrated its 55th birthday this year. Back in 2015 we had cake and celebrated with our 200 person audience as we offered our annual “free theater” in McMichael Park. Hopefully, we will be able to offer summer productions (and birthdays) in 2021.

Fort building….creative play evolves everyday from our young park users.
Meetings and picnics all happening with a social distance in mind. McMichael Park summer 2020.
We had a “hammock” day in McMichael Park in July. Enjoying the shade…drifting away…oh those summer days.
Our FOMP “masked men” who spent most of the summer thus far watering the three Anniversary Trees in McMichael Park. Special thanks to Robert Rabinowitz (left) who allowed the garden hoses to run from his home to provide the necessary 20 gallons per week per tree. Geoff Brock is one of our 30 year volunteers. Much appreciated. Photo credit: Christina Kistler

Meet all of our Amazing FOMP Volunteer’s…recapping our Friends and their stories.

Our series celebrating the 30th Anniversary of The Friends of McMichael Park has come to an end. We were able to highlight 22 of our volunteers. The list is below in case there were some that you missed. Many thanks to all who participated over these many years volunteering in McMichael Park. Readers enjoyed your story and the legacy of being part of The Friends of McMichael Park.

“…the end of the story is never the end of the story.” – Sandy Gingras/Lessons of a Turtle

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteer: Alexis Franklin

July 7, 12:15PM

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteer: Cynthia Kishinchand

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteer: John-david Franklin

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

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteer: Beth Gross-Eskin

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteer: Virginia Hayes

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Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteers: Cathy McCoy and Peter Logan

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteers: Nancy and Don Donaghy

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteer: Mike Andrews

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Meet our Amazing Volunteers: Marie and Steve Gibbs

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteers: Carla and Ron Bednar

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteers: Robert Rabinowitz and Donna Boling

Our amazing Friends of McMichael Park volunteer: Rich Lampert

Our Amazing Friends of McMichael Park Volunteer: Betty Miller

Turtle News – March 2020 “Where’s the Batter?”

Amazing Friends of McMichael Park volunteer: Geoff Brock

Celebrating 30 Years of Amazing FOMP Volunteers

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Still the most treasured, cherished, loved, dedicated and admired Friend To All…. The McMichael Park Turtle established 1965.

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteer: Alexis Franklin

“If you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself. Something to repair tears in your community. Something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That’s what a meaningful life is – living not for oneself, but for one’s community.” -Ruth Bader Ginsburg

What did you love about volunteering in McMichael Park?

I love seeing results. Over time this derelict space became the jewel of the East Falls neighborhood. Restoration and preservation was always what the group, later to become The Friends, had in mind. And now, 30 years later, the legacy of that transformation is apparent. In addition, it is always great to see neighbors working together for a common cause. We were always happy to collaborate with various groups as well: Tree Keepers, Power Corp., The William Penn Charter School, the Boy Scouts of America, Thomas Mifflin Elementary School, East Falls Tree Tenders, Bartram Gardens, PHS, Philly Tree, Parks on Tap, Jefferson University — even when it was Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science and then Philadelphia University — and we can never forget the Women’s Medical College & Hospital (MCP).

What volunteer moment are you are most proud of?

I have many proud moments: One year, I received a generous donation from Home Depot of 60 bags of mulch. They even gave me a truck to drive the bags from Plymouth Meeting to McMichael Park. As I headed down Ridge Pike I questioned whether truck driving was on my bucket list. I made it to McMichael Park safely but what I did not know was exactly how dump trucks worked. I thought you pushed a button and the back of the truck lifted and dumped. Not the case! The truck had to manually have each side removed and bags of mulch had to be individually unloaded. As I looked up in the heavens confused and in despair, it started to rain. My helplessness must have been obvious because several park side neighbors came out of their houses and started helping me unload. We were done in 15 minutes. Spontaneous and impromptu teamwork. This is the essence of our Friends and Neighbors. Right there. Always.

In 1994, Hilary Langer donated an evergreen tree from his back yard. We transplanted this three footer in front of the War Memorial, replacing a tree that had died. Today it towers over 30 feet. This was one of the early plantings of trees that the FOMP were able to provide to keep the McMichael Park canopy green.

In 1996, the East Falls Community felt very strongly about having a historical marker dedicated to memory of our namesake Morton McMichael. We had applied to the Commonwealth, but sadly it was determined he was too local. The Community stepped up and decided to fund our own, which is installed at the corner of McMichael Street and Midvale Avenue. Working together, always. It made it easier to accomplish what we needed, and volunteering for a cause is a great way to bring people together.

Alexis Franklin (right) with then Mayor Edward G. Rendell and the Union League Glee Club. Morton McMichael was one of the founders of the Union League of Philadelphia. Photo: October 1996
There was quite a turn out for the unveiling that October Day…Mayor Edward G. Rendell, and Councilman Michael Nutter. East Falls Community Council President, George Magnatta, East Falls Business Association President, Roberta Ginsburg, Pastor William De Heyman from Redeemer Lutheran, Alice Reiff from Friends of Inn Yard, Julie Camburn from the Fallser Newspaper and Mimi Winder Halloway whose garden still stands at this same corner.

I am also very proud that I was able to conceive and bring together Commonwealth Classic Theatre productions. “Free” theater in McMichael Park started in 2008 with William Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” Always hard to gauge what kind of attendance this was going to bring, but I thought it was worth taking the chance. People came from all sections of the city. Families, church groups, friends, neighbors, Shakespeare buffs, actors and theatre aficionado’s. Picnics, lawn chairs, and strollers were part of the night too. When I saw children leaving at the end of the show repeating the dialogue, I knew we had reached the neighbors and friends. Proud that we could offer these free productions. Through grants and fundraising, not the Globe, but pretty close to the original intent to provide free theatre to all people.

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

As coordinator of The Friends of McMichael Park, I have endeavored to supplement McMichael Park’s needs; but there are some always elements and situations that are over and above what we can do as a Friends group. The restoration of the War Memorial took some time with advocacy and grant writing. Major tree removal or large limb pruning are just two areas that are very challenging. Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) is not always funded or has the available resources to do the work either. One arborist. One machine. Critical and sometimes urgent work is wait listed unless they are deemed dangerous. I must constantly advocate for challenging park work that becomes a time consuming process.

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

I have been volunteering in McMichael Park since the very beginning. And these 30 years have gone by so quickly. My community service begins before that, as I served as the Treasurer of the East Falls Community Council for 10 years. I moved on to chair the inaugural East Falls Festival and first East Falls Flea Market. At the time, McMichael Park was NOT getting “any” city services. As a matter of fact it was a visual and environmental eyesore. When a “drug buy” went bad, ending up in a fatality, I decided to focus on one thing: McMichael Park. I was joined by two early advocates of The Friends, Tom Williams and Keith Shively. As I posted signs along the park that stated, “The Turtle needs a friend.” We set a meeting date and 95 people showed up at the meeting. Others recognized the “green” potential of McMichael Park, and the neighbors became Friends, volunteered, donated, and got their hands dirty! We got the grass cut regularly and trees pruned through various grants. We sold daffodil bulbs, tee shirts, raffled baskets, sold tote bags, and ultimately I created the very successful, Love Lights. I met lots of neighbors, friends, and their children … and now their grandchildren. It is always wonderful and endearing to have family participation. Giving back is a nurtured experience and must be taught and learned.

What advice do you have for other friends/volunteers?

Commit! Don’t just watch and sit on the sidelines. The Commissioner challenged the neighborhood recently: batter up! Be a part of the team. No need to start another team, this is the team, and there is only one victory: the preservation of McMichael Park. My volunteer efforts were not done alone. One thing I’ve learned and espoused is that it takes not only a village but many, many neighbors to step forward over time and as a resident of this community “pitch in” “contribute” “get involved” . I firmly believe it is a lot more fun when you get that sense of camaraderie.

When you volunteer “all together.”

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.

Turtle News: IT’S A WRAP!

by Alexis Franklin

Love Your Park @Home 2020 — McMichael Park saluted the 30th Anniversary Celebration of The Friends of McMichael Park with a nine-day Love-fest. Our daily videos, self taped by our volunteers were one-of-a-kind and ones to remember. Unique, AND different!

All of us learned so much … Cuts … Edits … Lighting … Sound … Retakes … iMovie!

We appreciate those Friends and volunteers who got involved and glad our stay at home readers got a big kick out of the videos too.

Audience reach was more than 1,000 on some days, and we’ve received many supportive comments from our readers. Peter and Cathy certainly missed their “Monty Python” calling. And there were sightings of Mark Anthony at the Acme. Christina took us back for some Park history related to the War Memorial and then she and husband Brian brought us a glimmer of hope as we look ahead to Parks on Tap … maybe? Robert and Beth reminded us of how easy it is to adopt a garden bed, and how simple it is to work independently in our current situation. Our gifted reader Jay Fogarty — grandson of 30 year volunteer Betty Miller — mesmerized us with his voices for “The Lorax.” Yes, Danny Devito, you should be concerned. If you missed the dailies then take a look at the links below and see what everyone is talking about.

McMichael Park, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and Fairmount Park Conservancy all have certainly been elevated this past week. We’ve all noted more people using McMichael Park, and all of the Park patrons should be commended on the social distancing practice and creative play in McMichael Park during this time. Yoga, family picnics, sidewalk chalk designs and much more.

McMichael Park as is … is certainly a joy to all at this time.

The City of Philadelphia budget for fiscal year 2021 has been recommended by Mayor Jim Kenney, and is awaiting a vote from the City Council. The proposal includes a massive 20 percent cut to PP&R’s annual budget. Click here to read the proposed budget.

Commissioner Kathryn Ott-Lovell has asked Friends Groups around the city to do “more.” Volunteering will be the only way that the Park system can and will survive. Children need to be fed. Pools will be closed indefinitely. Recreation Centers and public libraries will have limited hours, if they open at all. Seasonal maintenance associates will be drastically cut. The new normal will require more time, talent and energy from its volunteers and Friends’ groups.

The Friends of McMichael Park stand ready to support the City of Philadelphia and PP&R in any way it can, as this determined and diligent group has done for the past 30 years.

As we look ahead, planning will need to be creative.

Our McMichael Park series celebrating Love Your Park @Home 2020 week is a step in that creative process.

FOMP Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfMcmichaelPark

FOMP Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/friendsofmcmichael/

Nancy asks that you stay six feet apart

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteers: Cathy McCoy and Peter Logan

If you don’t believe one person can make a difference, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.— Anita Roddick 

Whenever Peter and I buy a new house (five, so far), I always stand on the front porch and look across the street to find out what I will be looking at every day.  When we bought our house on Coulter Street, 16 years ago, I looked out and saw McMichael Park.  It was March and there weren’t even any leaves on the trees yet, but I could tell we would have a great view.

We were gradually drawn into helping with the park in several ways. The best part about volunteering was the sense of camaraderie working with the other volunteers. We are really missing out on that in these pandemic days.

I have raked leaves and planted a tree during Love Your Park days, Peter has painted a bench and helped to string Love Lights.  We are currently housing the rainbow chairs in our shed, and we are now the proud caretakers of the dog poop stations in the park.  So, if we are remiss in keeping them filled, you know who to call.

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteers: Nancy and Don Donaghy

“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.

The Donaghy Grands taking a reoccurring ride on the Turtle. Nan and Don observing from the bench.

April 24th: Today was a Meaningful day – FOMP provide lunches for the 39th Police District

Practicing Social Distancing and Ready for lunch from Le Bus – East Falls. The 39th Police officers with FOMP coordinator, Alexis Franklin

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.”

FOMP supporting a Local restaurant and providing lunches for the 39th Police District.

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteer: Mike Andrews

“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.

Questions: Please contact Mike @ Iammikeandrews@gmail.com.

Meet our Amazing Volunteers: Marie and Steve Gibbs

” Do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

Furry park buddies, Molly on left and Sage on right standing in for their owners Marie and Steve Gibbs. McMichael Park is a dog and people friendly place.

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.

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteers: Carla and Ron Bednar

Carla and Ron just celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary at home in East Falls….they have been a valuable asset to McMichael Park over the years. Cheers!
“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!

Turtle News – April 2020 Many Ways to Stay Connected

by Alexis Franklin

CoVid-19 Bench


Over the past few weeks, our country, state and city have monitored the Covid-19 pandemic.  This has been an unstable situation where we are learning new things each day. As of Now, the Friends of McMichael Park have planned a number of upcoming events which we sincerely hope can go on.  However, cancellations may occur as this health crisis unfolds.  Please stay connected to our various sites and The Friends of McMichael Park will keep everyone updated. 
          -Love Your Park:  To date, Love Your Park week is still on as planned: May 9th -17th.  Our McMichael Park is registered. How would you like to help? Send me an email and let me know what you can do.  Volunteering is free!  AND AVAILABLE FOR EVERYONE IN OUR COMMUNITY!  Lexy3904@gmail.com
     -Not available May 9-17th? Other days can be added for various projects which we can gladly provide assignments based on your availability. There are many projects on the schedule and the Friends of McMichael Park openly and transparently allow for participation in any and all projects.  Lexy3904@gmail.com
    -Shakespeare Live is planned for June 2020.  This summer, we are please to present a new production company, ShakespeareNJ.  This summer’s performance will be something appropriate and timely; a new production especially for us of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Ceasar.” Dates are set for Tuesday June 2nd with a rain date of Thursday, June 4th. (please note this is earlier than prior years so save the date.) This Shakespeare Live performance should run approximately 70 minutes and will be followed by a post-show discussion with the cast!  As we have invited everyone in the past 12 years, open air theatre, free, of course, and we encourage picnics and lawn chairs. This is the most popular of William Shakespeare’s plays  and suitable for the entire family. The Friends of McMichael Park proudly sponsor our 13th summer of free theater in McMichael Park. Thanks to FOMP/Bill Hoffner for his efforts to get this production in McMichael Park. 
     –Parks on Tap will be returning to McMichael Park in August 2020. Parks on Tap is Philadelphia’s traveling beer garden that gives back! With a partnership between Philadelphia Parks & RecreationFairmount Park Conservancy, and FCM Hospitality, Parks on Tap brings a beer garden to various parks throughout the city all summer long. Each location provides fresh food, beers on tap, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages in a festive outdoor environment with comfortable chairs, hammocks, and clean restrooms. Parks on Tap is family-friendly. Dogs on leashes are welcome. Parks on Tap kicked off in 2016 as a way to engage the Philadelphia community and give back to the neighborhood parks. A portion of all proceeds are donated to The Friends of McMichael Park to help restore and maintain our open green space.

Here are Thirteen additional ways to stay connected with McMichael Park and beyond: 

1. We have a BRAND NEW blog called McMichael Park Turtle Friends  – https://mcmichaelparkturtlefriends.com/ – Highlighting our 30 years of volunteering in McMichael Park. #FOMP30

2. Check out all updates on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfMcmichaelPark/Click Here

3.  Or on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/friendsofmcmichael/?utm_source=ig_embedClick Here

4. Take a walk: Research shows that spending 20 minutes in nature can reduce stress levels. Enjoy the fresh air in your park! (Please note that Philadelphia Public Playgrounds and basketball courts are closed as of March 25th.) 

5.  Take note of your favorite nearby tree. Download the iNaturalist app and start to identify the plants and wildlife in your community! 

6.  Accepting Proposals!  Philadelphia’s community-based groups embarking on creative projects & activities that are free and open to the public are invited to apply for grants through our Creative Avenues initiative. Deadline is Friday, April10th –  http://creativephl.org/ca/

7. Explore a fun, interactive map for kids on different cool trees around the world.

8. Learn about a project in Jersey City where participants tweet for the trees for the trees have no phones.

9. Learn about the life of a tree alongside the young people in your life.

10. Watch the documentary Symphony of the Soil on Kanopy (a free movie watching service for all Free Library card holders).

11. Read or listen to Ecologist David Haskell tell the story of smells from eleven trees.

12. Watch live streams of the animals at the Monterey Bay Aquarium or the Osprey Cam from San Francisco Bay.

13. From the Philadelphia Park Alliance/Alex Doty: Think of your favorite park. What is your favorite thing to do there? Now write it down on our new Parks and Rec Defender shield

When you’ve printed out the shield and added your favorite park and activity (feel free to add some art), please post on social media with the hashtag #PPRDefenders. Be sure to tag Parks Alliance, City Council, your Councilperson, and anyone else you would like to know how much you love your park. You can also send any pictures to photos@philaparks.org or text them to 267-404-3010.

When you share this, you are letting City Council know how important your parks and rec centers are to you and to your community.

Be Safe in McMichael Park Practice Social Distancing aka Social Caring

Meet our Amazing FOMP Volunteers: Robert Rabinowitz and Donna Boling


Whatever you can do, or dream you can… begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
— Goethe 

Robert Rabinowitz in McMichael Park/northeast corner where he adopted and tends his garden bed.

What did you love about volunteering in McMichael Park?

I made McMichael Park more personally mine by adopting a space on the northeast corner of the park as an area that I would plant and maintain. That was made more personal when the small stone blocks were donated to the park and assembled by the Friends into a circle around the plot. Frankly, now I look at what is becoming somewhat overgrown and, with a shrug containing resentment and personal loss, walk past. I suspect though that, now being an old dog, the new trick of ignoring what needs tending will lose to what has become both a meditation and habit.


What volunteer moment are you most proud of?

The transition from building 12, section B, apartment 2C in New York in 1968 to a single 3 story West Mt Airy home with a fruit bearing apple tree in a spacious backyard, and then to East Falls immediately wedded me to open space and greenery. So, with Gabrielle at 18 months of age and committed to putting most things in her mouth, running wildly until she tripped and fell, and wanting to pet every dog in sight, though only from the rear which made the dogs constantly spin and turn until they tired of what was perceived by them as a new game, we began by following her lead and then transitioning to building fairy houses, learning the names of the dogs, throwing and sometimes catching balls while, unerringly, causing me to run since, no matter how pure her motives, the toss always went to where I wasn’t. As a family we often walked through and sat in the park and never tiring, at least I didn’t, of commenting on the unbelievability of living where we did (do).

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

We moved to Coulter Street when almost every house had a basketball hoop without the presence of any domiciled teens to use them. McMichael Park had begun to become the tranquil green space that it is today, sorrowfully though not for long, yet was still, kindly put, a rough presence. One problem with the McMichael Street side of the park was that the late night activities left lots of glassine envelopes scattered along the curb in the morning. That changed dramatically when the junior Rendell entered Penn Charter and the circling marked and unmarked police cars did, at a minimum, reduce the curbside trash. 

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

When, in 1992, when Donna, Gabrielle, and I moved from Indian Queen Lane to Coulter Street, a move of several blocks and an equal number of attitudinal light years regarding the presence of a child of color, an attitude that thankfully has shifted away from secretly scheduling Halloween Trick or Treat Night when only we and our children would come knocking.

In short order, and I don’t recall whether it was under direct threat from Alexis or perhaps a more generous charitable motive that propelled both Donna and me to become, both with small and capital F’s, (f)Friends of McMichael Park. The word “propelled” in the last sentence gives some inclination that the motivation to begin working in and with the park was not totally an internally motivated decision. Once started, however, McMichael Park became a sacred place. To me, it was never a passive green space. The maintenance activity of planting, raking, digging, sawing and concern for the park, made me one of keepers of something between a neighborhood space and an eden; though it is possible to make the expulsion from the latter a metaphor for the snake offering planned changes to a truly an idyllic space, a symbolic apple. And, as an afterthought, whenever a “real” playground was desired, and this did happen on some weekends, we had ample choices. 

What advice do you have for other friends/volunteers?

I think sometimes of the neighbors and (f)Friends who have moved away or died, of the time with and in the park and smile and of what might possibly have been the last time for throwing Valentine lights over tree branches while hoping that the ladder doesn’t slip out from under me. It has been a wonderful trip.  

Robert (seated 2nd from right) and Donna Boling (standing 4th from right) joining the Friends of McMichael Park on Love Your Park day in May 2014. Photo was for the Fallser newspaper which was celebrating their 20th anniversary. #FOMP30