West Chester Area Transition: Roots and Branches

West Chester Area Transition, the latest initiative of the WC Green Team, is now fully functional, with regular meetings, three programs underway, and two more in the planning.

In January 2021, a group of Green Team leaders and friends engaged in a brainstorming activity following the guidelines of the international Transition movement, which asks:  “What does your town need?”  Out of this activity came fice ideas which were discussed and narrowed down to three for 2021. 

First, we decided that the community needed more community gardens and now we have added three.  We have been working with Barclay Friends, the Lockard family and the Melton Center on this project, whose coordinators are Elizabeth Schultz, Nathaniel Smith and Ashlie Delshad.

As part of this outreach, the Green Team asked two of our hosts, Barclay Friends and the Melton Center: “What can we do for you?”  At Barclay we are teaching gardening skills to the staff, growing herbs to be used in the residents’ dining hall, and providing a concert in the garden for residents and gardeners and their families, with local favorite Stephanie Markstein performing there on August 14.

At the Melton Center, we agreed to provide children’s programming and are now busy getting all the details in place for eight evening events.  The series begins on Monday, June 21, with a planting activity led Elizabeth Schultz, our summer intern.  Subsequent programs will include a folk tale about peaches from Japan, one on how pumpkins grow, another on beneficial insects, and finally an ice cream party–with no-dairy options–along with stories from New Zealand.  

Another Transition initiative is Living Landscapes, in which a team led by Courtney Finneran is piloting removing grass and planting pollinators.

Our other current initiative is cutting down on plastics. Another of Prof. Schraedley’s communications classes reached out to about 60 restaurants and businesses in the Borough and about plastics reduction in the context of the Borough’s Sustainable Storefronts initiative (see more details and update here).

If you would like to volunteer to help out in any of these programs, or would like to donate to these good causes, please contact Margaret at mhudings@gmail.com.

WC Green Team / WC Area Transition 20212 yard sign

Have you seen our Transition sign in yards yet?  It shows many colored hands with blossoming flowers and the  words “Rising to the Challenges of Our Time.”  The beautiful image was created by Transition US and happily shared with us. This sign was unveiled on Earth Day at West Chester University by Mayor Jordan Norley and his wife Rani.  WCU representatives in attendance included Director of Sustainability Brad Flamm, and Prof Megan Schraedley.  In addition, Nathaniel Smith represented the GT.  Dr. Schradley and West Chester GT activist and Tree Team head Courtney Finneran were recognized for their environmental leadership and presented the keys to the Borough by Mayor Norley.

See the text of Rani Norley’s well-received unveiling speech to explain the sign along with other Earth Day info and images here.

More background

Did you know that nearby Media and Phoenixville are Transition Towns?  Transition began in England in 2009.  The motivating idea was that the world is moving beyond fossils fuels and needs to work on resilience, solidarity, and mutual support in our communities.  

The terms transition town, transition initiative and transition model refer to grassroots community projects that aim to increase self-sufficiency to reduce the potential effects of peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability. Transition is specific to the needs of each community.  Media has a free store housed in a Methodist Church where people can drop off unwanted items and pick up what they need.  A donation box brings in enough money to cover the utilities, and everyone is happy with it.  Media also sponsors many celebrations designed to foster community and bring the town together–such as Winter Solstice celebrations. 

Phoenixville already had a work barter system (a common Transition idea), so has sponsored pop-up repair cafes where they serve coffee, repair items, and teach repair skills.  Central to Transition thinking is zero waste and teaching skills.  Transition in Phoenixville works in parallel with their Green Team.  

In West Chester, when we brought up adding in Transition thinking to our Green Team work, the idea arose of a free store–but many felt that Buy Nothing West Chester is already doing a good job with that (if your family is not already a member, we suggest you look into joining on Facebook).  We looked into housing the store at the Cornerstone Christian Fellowship on West Gay St,. but they are now closed because of the pandemic, so we put that idea on hold.

Another idea was to sponsor a community-wide festival–maybe around Earth Day.  Paula Kline suggested front porch music–as she was involved with such a festival in New Haven CT.  Everybody loved this image for West Chester’s front porches.  We brainstormed ideas and reached out to a couple of locations.  Rev. Dan Schatz of Unitarian Congregation, a musician in the Appalachian mountain tradition–and a very good one–suggested that this April is too soon to do such a festival.  And so, the consensus was to postpone it.  We are looking to offer it in April of ’22 and already have support from 3 Borough locations.  We hope to offer it all around the town and involve graphic art and drama as well as music. 

So the festival idea is on hold till next year, though this year’s Earth Day included an initial step, with people viewing sidewalk chalk art in town and recycled art on the terrace at the Chester County History Center, thanks to students in one of Prof. Megan Schraedley’s classes.

For programs we launched in 2021, see above. For our earlier planning phase, see here.

1 thought on “West Chester Area Transition: Roots and Branches

  1. Pingback: Updating recent WC Green Team activities: Earth Day, Plastics | West Chester Green Team

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