What used to be nothing but a huge parking lot for the Philadelphia Housing Authority has become something much more to a group of residents living in the Haddington section of Philadelphia.

Nearly hidden amidst a cluster of homes, the Conestoga Pearl Gardens is full of garden beds neatly in rows, cherry trees ready to be picked, and a park area where children are able to play. The garden is just one of many that the nonprofit Urban  Tree Connection oversees. The organization’s primary goal is to engage  children and adults from some of Philadelphia’s most disadvantaged  neighborhoods in community-based, urban greening projects.

A beautiful sign, decorated with yellow suns and red roses, welcomes those who enter the garden and pass by the large trees that are almost guarding the entrance. Seedlings of onions, cucumbers, string beans, and other vegetables occupy the beds, waiting to blossom as youth ages 7-10 tend to their creations.

It was evident as I sat down to begin my observation of the program that the children seemed happy and carefree: running around and following their instructors from each garden bed to the next and pulling weeds up to make room for their soon-to-be-born onions.

“Before we had actually realized what was going on, Skip Weiner, founder of Urban Tree, had already began planting trees,” says Lisa Barkley, block captain and president of Conestoga. “He had a vision of what he wanted to do, and that included getting the community involved.”

Read the full story here…

And also on the Huffington Post.