The mission of the Urban Tree Connection is to assist urban, low-income communities to revitalize their neighborhoods by transforming abandoned open spaces into safe and functional places that inspire and promote positive human interaction.
Urban vacant land is typically concentrated in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods and is often linked to drug-related crime and violence. The City of Philadelphia is currently estimated to have over 30,000 vacant lots, many of which are overgrown, filled with trash and contribute to an appearance of decay and blight.
We believe that community-based urban greening is a great way for residents of all ages to bring about positive change in their neighborhood. In addition to beautifying the neighborhood, urban greening projects also provide a variety of economic, environmental, health-related and social benefits.
We involve neighborhood children in all our projects as we believe it is crucial to educate the next generation of urban residents about the immense value of urban green space.
Since the spring of 2006 growing vegetables has become a major programmatic theme as part of our Growing Healthy initiative - a multi-year community gardening and health education project designed to promote the benefits of healthful eating and physical activity.
Currently the Urban Tree Connection is focusing most of its time and resources in the Haddington area of West Philadelphia that is bounded by 52nd to 63rd Streets and Market Street to Girard Avenue. We are forming partnerships with individuals, resident groups and agencies and institutions in Haddington to build a neighborhood-based open-space reclamation system that will also address the food security and health & nutrition challenges of Haddington residents.
In order to maximize the opportunity for residents to participate in the process UTC offers 3 types of activities:
David Stinnett, UTC Board Chair
Principal, The Vanguard Group
Harvey B. Swedloff, UTC Board Treasurer
Chief Financial Officer (retired), Ashbridge Investment Management, LLC
Director of Special Projects, Foundations, Inc.,
Rickie Orr Brawer
Associate Director, Office to Advance Population Health, Thomas Jefferson University
Senior Assistant Dean, Undergraduate Programs
Temple University, Fox School of Business and Management
Kathleen English Communications, LLC
Liaison, Philadelphia Committee of the Garden Club of America
Executive Secretary, CATCH, Inc.
Committee Person, 44th Ward-Div 18
Block Captain 5200 Block Pennsgrove Street
Director, Marketing & Communications, RecycleBank
Joel E. Tasca
Partner, Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP
Chair, Public Finance Department, Blank Rome, LLC
Executive Director, Urban Tree Connection
Skip Wiener, Executive Director
With masters’ degrees both in Science and Landscape Architecture, Mr Wiener has worked in the public and private sectors as a landscape architect since the 1970s. In 1989 he started the Urban Tree Connection and worked with children in the Chester and Philadelphia School Districts, developing environmental community service-learning projects. The Urban Tree Connection was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1997 and has grown into a team effort with the support of those listed below.
Ryan Witmer, Farm Manager
Mr. Witmer grew up farming in Ohio and later graduated from Messiah College with a degree in Environmental Studies and Public Policy. In 2008 he conducted research in Havana, Cuba, through the University of British Colombia, on the policy and formation of Cuba’s urban agriculture; and in 2009 he was awarded the Murray Library Research Grant to investigate ‘The Viability of Urban Agriculture in a Developed Capitalistic Country’ at International Development and Research Center in Ottawa, Canada.
Annie Preston, Director of Children's Programs
Ms. Preston is an undergraduate in Environmental and Urban Studies at Temple University. 2012 will be her third season working at the farm and coordinating UTC youth programs in Haddington. She manages the summer teen work program, neighborhood cooking classes, and the Pearl Street kids programs where she serves as a mentor and friend to over 40 children.
Dylan Baird, CSA Business Manager
Dylan is an undergraduate in Temple University's Fox School of Business. His main focus is social entrepreneurship, which combines his passion for social justice with his love for business. He manages the distribution of produce from the farm, establishing and maintaining partnerships with local businesses as well as overseeing the operations and marketing for UTC farm stands. He also manages the neighborhood farm stand and coordinates other community programs.
Lisa Barkley, Program Assistant
Ms. Barkley is a two-time Americorps volunteer; who works for Girl Scouts of America delivering afterschool programs, and is a 30-year resident of Haddington Homes, West Philadelphia, locus of UTC’s oldest and most successful garden site.
Jeff Daniels, Landscape Supervisor
Mr. Daniels has managed UTC’s teen landscape programs for the last 10 years, most recently, Teens-Go-Green. He owns and manages a landscape contracting business, and directs the youth ministry program at his church. Prior to forming his landscape business, he honed his craft for 20 years with the landscape crew on the Penn State Ogontz campus.
Sue Witte, Volunteer Coordinator
Ms. Witte attended Vassar College, is a graduate of the Barnes Foundation Horticulture School, and as a professional gardener, she designs and maintains small gardens. She is also a part time children’s librarian at the Bala Cynwyd Library and a member of the Philadelphia Reading Olympics Book Selection Committee.
Misako Scott, Office Manager
Ms. Scott has a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of the Arts and has worked as a cabinetmaker, director of Small Computers in the Arts Network, and as an assistant both to physicians and educators