Glenwood Green Acres: An urban oasis

Darlene Marcus and Viery Thomas are the spirit and engine behind Glenwood Green Acres– a 3.5-acre community garden that sits on land formerly occupied by an abandoned cement factory, close to SEPTA’s North Philadelphia train station.
The garden bears the distinction of being the largest community garden in the the city of Philadelphia. It is also a site for City Garden, a program run through PHS and the Neighborhood Gardens Trust.

To learn about Glenwood Green Acres and its history, I went on a tour one warm spring morning, with Darlene and Vie stopping every few feet to pluck weeds along the way.

Blaine Bonham talks about Ernesta Ballard

Hard to imagine that Blaine Bonham, former head of Philadelphia Green, began his career as a portfolio analyst in the banking business. “I was probably the only young person there that was wearing platform shoes and wild Keon shirts to work,” he recalls. “I just knew that something was not right about this match.”

Under his direction Philadelphia Green grew from a small, grassroots initiative to the most comprehensive urban greening program in the nation. A natural storyteller, Blaine remembers his introduction to former PHS President Ernesta Ballard.

Jane Pepper: “I was lucky.”

Anyone who knows anything about Pennsylvania Horticultural Society knows Jane Pepper, who raised the stature of the Philadelphia Flower Show internationally and supported the expansion of the Philadelphia Green program into a national model for urban revitalization.
Jane talked with me about her arrival at PHS in 1976 as a volunteer for the Flower Show and the role Ernesta Ballard played in encouraging her to eventually succeed her as President. She led the organization for almost three decades and retired in 2010.
If you listen closely, you may hear evidence of her Scottish heritage.

Pottstown: Guidance Counselors are essential.

This video, part of a project called “Stories Behind the Numbers,” highlights the injustice in Pennsylvania’s formula for funding school districts. Focusing on Pottstown, one of the top five school districts with the highest disparity in funding, I interviewed parents, kids, teachers, administrators, school board members and community members to hear the impact firsthand.

The four-month-long project was done with in collaboration with a team from POWER, an interfaith organization representing more than 50 congregations throughout Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

In this story, an elementary school teacher describes the consequences of having no guidance counselor for her sometimes troubled students.

Photography: Kevin Hoffman

Pottstown: Ensuring students have adequate funding is essential

This video, part of a project called “Stories Behind the Numbers,” highlights the injustice in Pennsylvania’s formula for funding school districts. Focusing on Pottstown, one of the top five school districts with the highest disparity in funding, I interviewed parents, kids, teachers, administrators, school board members and community members to hear the impact firsthand.

The four-month-long project was done with in collaboration with a team from POWER, an interfaith organization representing more than 50 congregations throughout Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

Pottstown School Superintendent opens with this story: “Let’s assume that you’re really sick. How much do resources matter then? Which do you want? Two Tylenol? Or all the interventions necessary to bring about a cure?”

Education is no different, when you consider the how some students have to get by with much less than their affluent suburban counterparts.

Photography: Kevin Hoffman

Pottstown: Keeping high quality educators is essential

This video, part of a project called “Stories Behind the Numbers,” highlights the injustice in Pennsylvania’s formula for funding school districts. Focusing on Pottstown, one of the top five school districts with the highest disparity in funding, I interviewed parents, kids, teachers, administrators, school board members and community representatives to hear the impact firsthand.

The four-month-long project was done with in collaboration with a team from POWER, an interfaith organization representing more than 50 congregations throughout Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

This story opens with Pottstown Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez describing the frustration of losing talented teachers to suburban districts able to pay them $5,000-10,000 more than he can.

Photography: Kevin Hoffman

Pottstown: Tale of Two Cities

This video, part of a project called “Stories Behind the Numbers,” highlights the injustice in Pennsylvania’s formula for funding school districts. Focusing on Pottstown, one of the top five school districts with the highest disparity in funding, I interviewed parents, kids, teachers, administrators, school board members and community members to hear the impact firsthand.

The four-month-long project was done with in collaboration with a team from POWER, an interfaith organization representing more than 50 congregations throughout Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

Courteney Parry launches the narrative in this story. She contrasts the resources at Pottstown High School with those at a nearby suburban district from which she transferred at the end of her sophomore year.

Photography: Kevin Hoffman

“I will remember Ms. Hantman forever!”

Some teachers make a lasting impact on their students. The lessons they teach extend far beyond academics and, sometimes, can influence our life’s trajectory. Recently I interviewed 12 students of Lisa Hantman, a 3rd grade teacher at Philadelphia’s McCall Elementary School. The students, who ranged in age from 9 to 20, had vivid recollections of their time in her classroom. In this audio slideshow, played at Need in Deed’s Teacher Soiree and 30th anniversary celebration, they reflect on the role she has played in their lives.