Abington Township Environmental Advisory Council
Receives 2017 Planning Advocate Award
Volunteering can be exhausting. For many retirees, volunteer work is literally a full-time job; the rest of us do our best to fit in activities after work and on weekends. Regardless of our age or employment status, we volunteer because we are passionate about a cause or enjoy sharing our interests and experience with others. Some see this as a calling to service for their communities.
I’m not sure how the volunteer bug infected me, but I remember back in my high school days happily joining the yearbook staff, participating in the choir and being active in my synagogue’s youth group. I remember volunteering at local Special Olympics events, cooking dinner for the homebound, and delivering meals on Christmas.
Skipping a few decades, I felt the volunteer bug again, deciding that I could help my community as a member of my township’s Environmental Advisory Council. I’m a professional planner with lots of experience working to protect and restore natural environments. I thought it might be nice to help review new development plans and provide some help with environmental ordinances. I applied for an open position and was appointed in 2010 for my first 3-year term. I joined 6 other members who all brought their expertise and a shared desire to help make our township greener.
We really didn’t think anyone noticed the work we were doing. We were wrong.
In a typical year, our EAC comments on development plans, and hosts programs addressing energy efficiency, clean water, and pollution prevention. We help apply for grants to implement stream restoration projects, we partner with local watershed groups to plant trees, we manage a rain barrel education program, and we clean up our local streams. In 2016, we helped facilitate a process to develop a sustainability plan, which earned the township a 3-STAR Community Certification from the STAR (Sustainable Tools for Assessing and Rating) Community Rating System. We are the second municipality in Pennsylvania to be awarded. Although the 3-STAR recognition was a result of a collaborative effort with numerous municipal staff, boards and commissions, the certification was spearheaded by one remarkable EAC volunteer, Cakky Braun-Evans.
Serving on volunteer boards is often a thankless job. We really didn’t think anyone noticed the work we were doing. Well, we were wrong. On Wednesday, November 15, the Abington Township EAC received the 2017 Planning Advocate Award from the Montgomery County Planning Commission. The Planning Advocate Award recognizes engaged citizens, appointed/elected officials or boards, and community organizations that have made a significant and sustained contribution to advancing planning in Montgomery County.
Our members, all volunteers appointed by the Abington Township Board of Commissioners, include Chairperson Jennifer Sherwood, Cakky Braun-Evans, Michele Kaczalek, Jim Webb, Dr. John Sorrentino, Karin McGarry-Rosen, Andrea Soo, myself, and several associate members. We were nominated by our outstanding Assistant Township Manager, Tara Wehmeyer, who works closely with our group. We all enjoy the work we do. We now have a great poster in our township building and a beautiful glass award to remind us that yes, sometimes volunteers are noticed.