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.

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 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.

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.

Treemendous LOVE lights McMichael Park – Feb. 1, 2020

Love Lights have shined annually in McMichael Park for the past 21 years. Supported by the generous community to benefit the work done by the Friends of McMichael Park

Since 1999, The Friends of McMichael Park have lit a tree in McMichael Park to raise funds for the “well-loved” McMichael Park. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Friends of McMichael. The Park will be glowing the week of February 10th remembering all the loves of your life. See the acknowledgments below and thank you for all who supported this event. With Admiration and Appreciation from the Turtle.

Lovelights: 2020

A Love light shines for… With Love from….

Marie Anne Spedding Gibbs

With all his adoration, appreciation & love. Your adoring husband, Steve

Harriet Soffa: Mark & Kris Soffa

Brian Love you more: Christina

Sabrina Love you: Mom and Dad

Wally and David: Daisy, Brian and Christina

East Falls Pack Walk: Thanks for the treats, Daisy

Friends of McMichael: Congratulations on 30 years of service to East Falls!

“ For LOVED ones”: Betty Miller

Happy 30th Anniversary to the Friends of

McMichael Park: An old Parkside neighbor who appreciates all the volunteers over the years.

In honor of our retiring board members:

Paul Furlong, Susan Kretsge & David Breiner: East Falls Historical Society

Nancy: Don Donaghy

My husband Dwight

“The Love of my Life.”: Chris Martin

In memory of Jim and Betty Wilkinson: Betsy Wilkinson

Joe Leube: East Falls Historical Society

For Cathy, the love of my life…: Peter Logan

I memory of Vinni Abate: Charlene Brock

It is the Community that makes East Falls

special to me,

& all the volunteers that put in

so much of their own time

into making this a great place to live.: Gayl Henze

Andrea Vogel – I miss you girl: Cathy McCoy

Valentine B.D. Marvin Hobbs: Chris Martin

Dot and Sir Donaghy: Nancy and Don

In memory of Mike and Mary Wilkinson: Betsy Wilkinson

Tessa, my dear sister: Peter Logan

In memory of Michael Bauman: Geoff & Charlene Brock

Friends of McMichael Park: Gayl Henze

Jack Slawson, the best work buddy: Cathy McCoy

Best to All!: Tom Williams & Keith Shively

Friends of the Falls of Schuylkill Library: Gayl Henze

Dear Amber: Chris Martin

In memory of Ed and Sarah Byrns: Betsy Wilkinson

Ann and Bill Rodenberger: Nancy and Don

In memory of Ken Hinde: East Falls Historical Society

Peter Logan, the love of my Life.: Cathy McCoy

Friends of McMichael Park: Anonymous

Guenevere, who I miss everyday: Peter Logan

In memory of Gerry Schweiger: Geoff & Charlene Brock

Charlie, my sweet, sweet doggie

Who is my best buddy.: Love you. Mommy

East Falls Community Council: Gayl Henze

In memory of Timothy Johnsen: Betsy Wilkinson

Our Park!: Chris Martin

Dan and Kristin Donaghy: Nancy and Don Donaghy

Bumble, GOOD DOG!: Cathy McCoy

In memory of Alex Montanez: Dr. Charlene Brock

Eli, my adorable, loveable & huggable grandson

You are the joy of my life!: Love Bubbie

East Falls Village: Gayl Henze

Power Corp for their recent help: Friends of McMichael Park

My three wise men: John-david, Zachary & Sam: Alexis

Brigid, Fionn, Tug, Rory and Molly Donaghy: Nancy and Don

The Turtle, who always speaks the truth: Peter Logan

In memory of John Geoghegan: Betsy Wilkinson

In memory of Romaine Patterson: Geoff & Charlene Brock

My daughters, Danielle & Hannah

Love you with my whole heart.

Grateful for our special bond: Love, Mom

Neal, my sweet, funny & silly son-in-law.

Wonderful husband & dad: Your favorite mother-in-law

East Falls Historical Society: Gayl Henze

Julie H. C. Rocco: M.J. Fullam

In loving memory of Peter Kishinchand: Cynthia and Kumar

In memory of Mary Wilkinson Hargadon: Betsy Wilkinson

For the love of my life, Beth: Bill Epstein

East Falls Tree Tenders{ Cynthia & Kumar Kishinchand

In memory of Antea Vece: Geoff & Charlene Brock

Liz Donaghy and Jamie Mullen: Nancy & Don Donaghy

Luna and Scout, happy together: Sam and Erica

In memory of Ed and Lucille Byrns: Betsy Wilkinson

Thomas Mifflin School Staff and Students: Cynthia & Kumar Kishinchand

East Falls Presbyterian Church: Gayl Henze

Friends of McMichael Park: Bill Hoffner & Frances Bourne

in blessed memory of Stephanie: Bill Epstein

In memory of Maryanne McGlynn Leauby: Betsy Wilkinson

First Presbyterian Church Germantown: Gayl Henze

with love to Angela, Matt, Miles, Ben & Josie: Dad & Pop-pop

Dolores and Jim Mullen: Nancy and Don

In memory of Patrick Quinn: Betsy Wilkinson

Judi and Bill Morrow: Nancy and Don

The Turtle and His Friends: Cynthia & Kumar Kishinchand

St. Bridget’s Church: Gayl Henze

Gayl and Herb Henze: Nancy and Don

In memory of Michael Wilkinson: Betsy Wilkinson

AnnMarie, Adrien, Henry and Marcus Knowles: Nancy and Don

For Members of East Falls Town Watch: Anonymous

Manuela and Gerd Kulage: Nancy and Don Donaghy

Alexis & Kris, my dear friends who share

The same love & passion for preserving

& nurturing open green space. Love you both! Beth

In Memory of Joan Newhall: Joe Terry

In memory of my son, David Hayes: Gingie Hayes

“Leading Lady”: Don Donaghy

In memory of Jack Alexander: Betsy Wilkinson

In memory of Eleanor Tompkins: Louanne Stratton

In memory of my husband, Cappy Hayes: Gingie Hayes

With love to Amanda, Pepe, Gabe and Carolina: Dad & Pop-Pop

In memory of Alice Cary: Joe Terry

Friends of McMichael Park: Frankie Jueds

Finn, thank you for being the light in our lives.

We miss you and we’ll always love you: Meredith and Georg

To honor my son, Christian Hayes: Gingie Hayes

In memory of Delores Buzniak: Joe Terry

Remembering Robert: Nicole and Sandra

To Bubi: Love, Eli

In memory of Joanne Timmons: Joe Terry

My darling wife, Donna, my best daughter,Gabrielle,

and my furry grandchild Cora: Robert

In loving memory of dear husband

and friend, Bill O’Callaghan: Allison O’Callaghan

In loving memory of dear parents,

Ralph & Loraine Hirst: Allison O’Callaghan

In loving memory of dear neighbors,

Leigh & Sally Marsh: Allison O’Callaghan

In loving memory of dear neighbors,

Sedric & Vicki Melidosian: Allison O’Callaghan

In loving memory of dear friend,

Tom Horne: Allison O’Callaghan

In honor of lifelong friends,

Mary Lee Horne, Roland & Mary Kriese Allison O’Callaghan

In honor of dear neighbors,

Hal & Kitty Commons: Allison O’Callaghan

Friends of McMichael Park:  Connie Gellespie 

FOMP…Thanks for all you do:  The Paganos