UC-GreenAlthough the famous frog says otherwise, he never lived in West Philadelphia.  Thanks to UC Green, lawns, sidewalks, playgrounds and other areas around University City are being transformed through countless hours of work from a staff of two people and many volunteers. 

One of those volunteers is Karen Wagner, MS, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian specialist at the Abramson Cancer Center. Wagner regularly works primarily with GI malignancies and hematology-oncology, including bone marrow transplants and the leukemia lymphoma program. Seeing how a healthy environment influences the health of her patients, Wagner took this effort a step further by applying for a Penn Medicine CAREs grant.

“More and more I see that it’s really important to have a good diet beforehand  if you receive a cancer diagnosis,” said Wagner. “Community access to fresh fruits and vegetables is lacking in some areas of Philadelphia, and people should have affordable access to those healthy foods year-round. That’s what led me to UC Green.”

The many programs carried out by this small organization include monthly volunteer workdays at the Woodlands Cemetery, potlucks, pumpkin carvings for kids, maintaining Clark Park (in partnership with the Friends of Clark Park group), a pruning club, a tool lending library, and a UC Green Corps program led by Winnie Harris, program and volunteer coordinator at UC Green. Last year alone, the organization and its many volunteers planted 156 trees, removed 1,180 sq.ft. of concrete,  held 15 garden workdays, hand pruned 16 city blocks, carried out numerous green workshops, and much more.

Wagner was elated to receive a Penn Medicine CAREs grant to continue this mission.  “I love medical care, but I also believe community health is so important,” she said. “Trees do so much to help fight asthma, pollution, emissions from vehicles, and more.”

UC Green, a 501c3 nonprofit, was founded in 1998 under the name “UC Bright” as a Penn initiative led by former Penn President Judith Rodin, PhD.  The group’s first plans brought more lighting in the area, but has since expanded to numerous green initiatives. Penn is the group’s largest supporter, but additional financial and volunteer assistance  comes from other institutions.

“I’m so thankful that UC Green is here,” said Wagner. “And I am so thankful that I work for an organization that is willing to support my work in the community as well.”

For more information, visit www.ucgreen.org

Photo: (L. to r) Sue MacQueen, executive director, UC Green, with Karen Wagner and Winnie Harris.