Awbury Arboretum hopes $300K grant leads to sustainable future in Northwest Philly

One of Northwest Philadelphia's largest green resources, Awbury Arboretum, is about to begin an extended season of growth.

The 55-acre arborteum at Chew Street and Washington Lane in Germantown learned this month that it will receive a two-year, $300,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation, an unprecedented gift for the nonprofit public landscape.

"It's intended to support Awbury becoming more sustainable," said Mark Sellers, chairman of the Awbury board and a resident of the arboretum for 13 years. "We get zero funds from the city or state; that was not always the case.

"Like a lot of nonprofits, we are now having to rethink ourselves, and to review our business plans in the absence of money that had flowed from the state."

New approach

Like many foundations, William Penn has been trying to help recipients of its funds to develop revenue streams that can keep them afloat without outside assistance.

"The purpose of this is to help us get into a position where we don't need grants in the future," Sellers said. "It's to help us develop the arboretum in a way that we can stand on our own."

There are already several sources of revenue at Awbury that it intends to expand.

Its primary service, Awbury Arboretum Landscapes, works off-site at the area's historic cemeteries and cares for the grounds of the Lutheran Seminary and the Franklin Institute, among other locations.

"AAL is our for-profit branch raising revenue for the nonprofit," explained Chris Carrington, the landscaping company director.

In September, AAL will also begin selling firewood, wood chips and leaf mulch for pickup or delivery.

"That's our way of turning our waste stream into dollars," Sellers said.

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About the author

Alan Jaffe, Contributor

Alan Jaffe has been a contributing writer for PlanPhilly since 2008, focusing on overlooked buidlings and historic preservation issues. He was a writer and editor in the newspaper industry for nearly 30 years, including eight at the Philadelphia Inquirer and nine at the South Jersey Courier-Post. He is currently the director of communications for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He is also an antiques writer and collector and the author of “J. Chein & Co.: A Collector’s Guide to an American Toymaker.”

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