PHS Volunteer Spotlight: Interfaith


Volunteers are a significant part of Philadelphia Green and PHS. Groups such as Interfaith are important not just to individual project sites, but to the community at large. PHS staff member Nic Esposito talks about his experience with 
Interfaith below.

One of the best things about working in community gardens is the number of volunteers I have the privilege to collaborate with. Just like the crops they help to tend and harvest, volunteers may be temporal, but their presence and efforts can be felt in the soil long after they leave. Recently I was lucky enough to cultivate some of this energy with volunteers from a group called Interfaith.

For the 10 college students who participated, this trip served as their spring break trip. So although most of their peers view spring break as a time to forget about responsibilities, this group was part of a mission to not only learn about how to affect communities through gardening, but also to discover how their spirituality could be strengthened through service.

The mission of Interfaith is social justice through Christianity. It was inspiring to work with young people who were taking time to help build a community, learn about service, and put their ideals into action. Experiences like this are a great reminder of why I do the work that I do.

photos courtesy of Nicole Diroff

Blaine Bonham, “Father of Philadelphia Green,” to Retire in June

PHS executive vice president J. Blaine Bonham Jr. will retire from PHS at the end of June. He joined PHS in 1974 and has been influential in the development of many PHS programs, including its acclaimed urban greening program, Philadelphia Green.

“For many years people have called Blaine the ‘Father of Philadelphia Green,’ and with ample justification,” says Jane G. Pepper, outgoing president of PHS. “When Blaine started at PHS, Philadelphia Green was a mere sapling of a program with two staff members and a truck. Under his leadership, it grew from a small, grassroots initiative to the most comprehensive urban greening program in the nation, and it now serves as a model for programs in other cities.”

Among Bonham’s accomplishments is the development and expansion of Philadelphia Green’s vacant land management program, a partnership with the city that has converted millions of square feet of once-derelict land into green space. During his tenure Philadelphia Green also launched Tree Tenders; created an extensive parks revitalization network; and led the renovation of prominent civic landscapes, including the grounds of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Azalea Garden, Logan Square, and John F. Kennedy Boulevard.

As Philadelphia Green’s reputation grew, Bonham became a national spokesperson for the importance of investing in green space as a key part of urban revitalization. Through speaking and consulting roles, conferences, and publications, he established PHS as a greening resource for other cities throughout the United States. Continue reading