Introducing: Our 2019 Milestones Award Winners!

Emilie Wetzel
May 1, 2019

Cherry blossom WMACR 2019


Gaspar Santos

Gaspar has become a reliable advocate for Tacony Creek Park, both in his role as Community Initiative Specialist with the Free Library of Philadelphia‘s Northeast neighborhood libraries and as a private citizen. He has been an incredible resource over the years, connecting us with stakeholders and organizations to further our mission and enthusiastically spreading the word about our work. He even brings his family to our nature programs! We are lucky to have him as a friend of our organization.


Dave Bell

Dave is a truly dedicated steward of the TTF Watershed. In the past 2 years, he has marked over 500 storm drains, talking to neighbors and businesses along the way about the importance of keeping our streets and storm drains clean for the sake of our creeks. Not only is Dave our star Storm Drain Marker, he’s also an inspiring advocate. He has visited elected officials with us and on his own to advocate for clean water. He has also written blogs and Letters to the Editor about our work, the Streamkeepers, and clean water. We are grateful to have passionate volunteers such as Dave!

Geoffrey Selling & Chrissa Pederson

Geoffrey and Chrissa are the epitome of industriousness. Over the past few years, they have spent hundreds of hours volunteering at our creekside buffers and rain gardens. Together, they remove invasive plants and repair deer fencing at numerous sites including Abington Friends School, Ethel Jordan Park, McKinley Elementary School and most recently, Curtis Arboretum. Nearly every Tuesday, they dedicate a few hours to sprucing up these sites, despite cold or heat. They are so dependable that we even ship supplies directly to Geoffrey’s home! They have also both written blogs for us on issues of interest, such as butterfly migration (Chrissa) and the dangers of fracking (Geoffrey)! We need more teams like Geoffrey and Chrissa!


Nina Bilynsky-Ristics, El Centro de Estudiantes High School

As an advisor and teacher, Nina cares deeply about providing genuine learning experiences to her students at El Centro de Estudiantes High School. In recent years, she has arranged for her students and colleagues to clean up in Tacony Creek Park to learn about the impacts of trash in our creeks, and how volunteering makes a difference. She has also been a valuable asset, inviting us to participate in learning fairs to talk with students about volunteer and internship opportunities. We are so thankful for educators like Nina who understand the importance of connecting our youth to their waterways.


Rasheeda Murphy, Abington Friends School

As a part of AFS Outside and in her own classroom, Rasheeda is devoted to providing opportunities for Abington Friends students to learn from nature. Over the years, she has been instrumental in involving AFS students in TTF’s Bioblitzes, events in which participants work together to find and identify as many living, natural species as possible. She even wrote a blog about the BioBlitzes that took place across our watershed last fall. She has coordinated many MLK Day of Service events, and is a dependable connector to nature-based service opportunities. We commend Rasheeda for her commitment to and enthusiasm for providing these valuable experiences for her students.  

Jennifer Tanay, McKinley Elementary School

Jennifer has done incredible work to promote environmental awareness in the McKinley Elementary School community. She has enhanced her school’s environmental science curriculum by taking groups of students to her “outdoor classroom,” the wetland enhanced on the school grounds, to give the students hands-on lessons surrounding water issues. She was also an exceptional advisor for the Roots and Shoots Club. Under her leadership, the club conducted an awareness campaign about single use plastic bags and hosted a plastic bag collection drive, an issue near and dear to TTF’s mission, because single use plastics make up much of the litter found in our waterways. We applaud Jennifer for her commitment to providing hands-on lessons to her students about issues that pertain to water and the environment.

Youth Champion

Echo Li, Abington Friends School

Echo Li is a natural environmental leader. A few years ago, she created the Environmental Action and Justice Club at Abington Friends School to raise awareness about environmental issues and provide students with opportunities to attend outside events. Since then, the club has achieved the Eco-School Bronze Award. She also has worked with the Sunrise movement to bring environmental activism to AFS and organized a group to go to the Youth Climate Strike. In her own environmental work, she’s created a documentary about mining in her homeland, China. We are inspired by her passion and leadership, and are excited to see where the future takes her.

Public Leader

Andrew Sinclair, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Andrew has been a dedicated member of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection staff for the past 20 years. His passion for helping local communities in tangible ways became evident in his role as a Water Quality Specialist. Now, as a Supervisor, Andrew uses his extensive knowledge to advise neighborhoods in our watershed about water-related challenges such as Cheltenham Township’s sewage line issues. We are fortunate to have devoted public leaders like Andrew!


Corporate Steward

United By Blue

United By Blue has set a new standard for corporate environmentalism with its mission to clean up 1 pound of trash from our oceans and waterways for every product sold. UBB has gone over and beyond to partner with grassroot organizations like TTF, municipal service providers, and community members. Just this past March, we partnered with UBB for a clean-up in Tacony Creek Park and were floored by the outpouring of enthusiasm from the 240 volunteers that came to clean up the park that day. Together, we managed to remove 22 tons of trash from the park and creek in the span of just 3 hours! We are awestruck by UBB’s tireless efforts and their commitment to sustainability.  


Joanne Dahme

As a founder and continued advocate of TTF’s work, Joanne Dahme, Public Affairs Manager for the Philadelphia Water Department, has truly made a lasting impact on our watershed. Her passion for this watershed and its people is apparent— prior to TTF being established, Joanne was working hard behind-the-scenes advocating for a formal partnership led by the people of this community. In its early years, Joanne led us through the transition from an informal organization to a nonprofit with bylaws, a board of directors, and an executive director. TTF simply wouldn’t exist without her efforts in these early years.

In more recent years, her leadership within Philadelphia Water Department has allowed the partnership between PWD and TTF to thrive. She is an avid supporter within PWD, pushing for projects and programs designed to boost the status and visibility of the TTF Watershed. Joanne has worked tirelessly to advocate for our watershed’s people, communities, and wildlife by serving as an active and enthusiastic member of our Board of Directors for many years.

Want to celebrate with these heroes on May 15 at our Watershed Milestones Award Ceremony & Reception? More information and tickets here.

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