Environmental group to honor several Germantowners as ‘great watershed advocates’

When the Tookany/Tacony Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF) hosts its first-ever “Watershed Milestones Award Ceremony and Reception” fundraiser later this month, several people from Germantown will be honored for helping the group work toward its goal of protecting the area watershed’s “health and vitality.”

Ruth Seeley and Susan Finch of Friends of Vernon Park will being recognized for their continued support, leadership and monthly clean-up work regarding the park’s rain garden.

“They were great partners in doing the rain garden that we did at Vernon Park and they were very enthusiastic,” said TTF executive director Julie Slavet.

She noted the group considers many projects outdoor classrooms “so that when people walk by they don’t just say ‘this is a beautiful garden.’ They say, ‘This is a rain garden, this is why it’s a rain garden and this is what it does for stormwater management,’ and they have become great watershed advocates.”

Rev. Chester H. Williams, president and founder of Chew and Belfield Neighborhood Club Inc., will also be honored for his work for, and dedication to, the community. With volunteers, Williams does landscaping work for TTF.

“He is the life-blood of the community, and if every neighborhood had somebody like him, I think the city would be in a lot better shape,” said Slavet.

GFS students also honored

During the event, a silent auction will include a variety of green-themed items including native and river birch plants, a bike tour of the Tacony Creek, ceramic wooden bowls and photographs.

Hand-painted rain barrels with messages about the importance of water will also be auctioned off. They were designed by the Germantown Friends School fifth grade Environmental Action Club, which will be honored with the TTF Watershed Youth Champion Award.

Ashley Schmid, TTF’s director of outreach and education, said the students completed a two-part project addressing how the campus manages and retains stormwater.

They transformed a grassy area in the front of the school, which does not manage water well, into a native plant area so that it can better absorb the water. They also maintained a pond and a wooded area; a compost system and native butterfly garden were previous class projects.

“For the students in particular, it’s easy to lose sight when you are in school, having to keep up with the grind of homework and class work, that these are big issues in the world that affect our lives and communities,” said Schmid.

“Bringing students out, and appreciating and thanking them publicly, really brings those connections home to them and makes it clear that what they are doing, and what they are learning about, is really relevant and important to our society,” she continued.

TTF hopes to make the May 31 fundraising event — for which tickets cost $40 in advance and $50 at the Fairmount Waterworks Interpretive Center door — an annual celebration in an effort to unite people and create dialogue about watershed issues.

Honorees will receive framed certificates and commemorative buttons presented by the organization and the city Water Department Commissioner Howard Neukrug.

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