How to Help Give Back to Philadelphia’s Outdoors

Friends of the Wissahickon are the stewards of Philadelphia's largest park.
Friends of the Wissahickon are the stewards of Philadelphia's largest park. Christine Fisher
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Volunteering is like going out for a long, hard run. You don’t always want to do it, but when it’s over, you feel amazing. What better way to motivate yourself to give back then to get outside and donate your time to the outdoors? Luckily, Philly has a number of non-profits that need volunteers to help with their outdoors-related missions. Plus, getting outside to give back in Philadelphia is a feel good/do good way to kick off the new year. Lace up your boots, grab a pair of gloves, and contact one of these five charitable organizations who could use your help today.

1. Bartram’s Garden

Bartram’s Garden is home to many native North American plant species. John Donges

This 45-acre historical landmark dates back to the 1700’s, when John Bartram, America’s first botanist began collecting and cataloguing plants in his garden on the western banks of the Schuylkill River. Today, Bartram’s Garden receives 40,000 visitors annually, and always appreciates volunteer help. Volunteers who give ten hours of their time per year receive free memberships in return. Tasks include giving tours, gardening on each second Saturday of the month, and other special projects.

2. Plant One Million

Plant One Million aims to plant one million trees in the Greater Philadelphia area. Eileen Kane

Plant One Million is a tri-state organization with the goal of planting one million trees in 13 counties across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Volunteers can help by planting trees each April and November with the goal of returning the Greater Philadelphia area’s tree canopy to 30%. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society leads the charge in PA, and volunteers can register online with PHS. If you’d rather plant trees on your own, just add your total trees planted to the tally on the Plant One Million website.

3. Urban Blazers

Kids row together at the Delaware River Waterfront. Urban Blazers

Urban Blazers was founded in Philadelphia by David Reuter in 2005 after he recognized that thousands of Philadelphia’s under-resourced youth had no access to nature, though they may only live a mile or two away from the largest city park system in the nation. Through Urban Blazers, he began taking inner city kids on excursions through Fairmount Park and beyond, such as hiking, rock climbing, fishing, and skiing.  Those wishing to volunteer with Urban Blazers as a mentor or in an administrative capacity fill out an application online.

4. Friends of the Wissahickon

Friends of the Wissahickon are the stewards of Philadelphia’s largest park. Christine Fisher

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention Friends of the Wissahickon, the stewards of Philadelphia’s largest park. The FOW are responsible for delivering many park initiatives, such as restoring and building trails, monitoring and managing the watershed, maintaining historical structures, and eliminating invasive insect species. Most recently, the FOW replaced all the old trail markers with new, hiker-friendly signage. Volunteer with the Friends each Saturday at one of their trail workdays. Volunteer tasks include rebuilding trails, picking up trash, and removing invasive plant species.

5. Mill Creek Farm

Students learn to plant and harvest at Mill Creek Farm in West Philadelphia. Mill Creek Farm

Mill Creek Farm is an educational urban farm located in West Philadelphia with the mission of providing local, sustainable agriculture to the surrounding neighborhood. The farm provides a valuable resource for students and adults alike to learn more about their food and enjoy the fruits of their labor. From June through November, Mill Creek Farm also operates a farm stand in West Philadelphia selling the farm’s plethora of fresh produce.  Volunteer hours take place on Mondays from 9am to 12pm, and Saturdays from 9am to 1pm.

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