Parks move us forward

What does it really mean to be healthy and well? The PRPS Health and Wellness Committee is continuously looking at this definition, seeing how its changing, and identifying how we can be problem solvers, happiness givers, identity creators and community builders. During the pandemic, its become quite clear that our park’s play a major role in maintaining one’s mental health.

As many of you know, I’m a military veteran. I can probably count on thirty fingers (I have extras) the number of veteran friends I have that struggle with PTSD. Parks are there for them. During the pandemic, with everything shut down, our parks and forests were where these folks found comfort and connection. Walking trails, fishing, teaching their children to hunt. Even though the pandemic has caused a nationwide pause, as individuals and families we psychologically need to feel we are moving forward. Parks helped them move forward.

When I was three years old, my father committed suicide, which understandably became a difficult thing for me and my family to deal with. I can remember many days as a kid being angry, sad, defeated, impulsive. Every single time I felt that way, I would walk out my front door, grab a basketball and go shoot. Sometimes with a bunch of friends and sometimes just me at the foul line. For hours. Parks helped me move forward.

Today, with so much uncertainty regarding the economic, political and social fabric that binds us together, our mental health is more important than ever. The CDC reported in August that 40.9% of survey respondents said the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health, to include anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. This figure is alarmingly up 3-4 times over normal rates.

As a profession, we are always trying to make the argument that we are essential, and the opportunity to cement our story is at our doorstep. As illustrated by record attendance across the state, our residents see the essential value in what we do, parks help everyone move forward.

The Health and Wellness Committee is actively looking to increase mental health and wellness programming and initiatives, and welcomes your ideas! Email me at jlang@eastgoshen.org with your ideas, stories and suggestions!

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm

Essential Services: Activities and Recreational Therapy Professionals Making A Difference! Part 2

Compiled by Jeff Witman, CTRS, FDRT, Professor Emeritus, Applied Behavioral Sciences, York College of PA

With this blog we follow the progression of specific impacts at a facility and look to the future. There has never been a time with a greater need for communities to collaborate in their support of long term care and other healthcare organizations.
Emily Connors, CTRS, CDP, Therapeutic Recreation Supervisor, Masonic Village at Elizabethtown

March 2020 This month started off like usual, with much excitement for St. Patrick’s Day, trips and outings, programs, entertainment and laughter! No one expected, or could have been prepared for, the impact of COVID-19. Here at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, things came to a grinding halt instantly. Families were not allowed to visit. Vendors were not permitted on campus. All campus entrances were closed, except for one, and only staff members were permitted. Residents in the health care and personal care areas were told they needed to remain in their rooms at all times. There was a lot of anxiety, fear and questions. Things we had never considered as regular practices, were now in discussion. Decisions were made and changes occurred daily – sometimes several times a day – based on the situation. For our therapeutic recreation department, our concerns instantly focused on our residents now being in their rooms. Thoughts regarding their emotional, social, cognitive and physical health were swirling at our meetings. What we had always done (encouraging residents to socialize and be engaged in leisure) was now not safe for them to do. This idea went against all of our training, education and experience. Not only was our staff concerned for our residents, but the fear within the communities and our homes was unable to be ignored. Shortly after the decision for residents to remain in their rooms was made and implemented, our team quickly realized the connection to families was so important to figure out. Within one week, we had an iPad for each neighborhood. Our staff received training on Zoom and FaceTime and quickly found themselves training families on this technology. These video chats became a lifeline for many. In addition to the challenge of connecting families, our team realized the need for residents to continue to be engaged. We were able to utilize our technology and capability for livestreaming on our campus television channel. By April 1, we were able to distribute therapeutic recreation calendars to all of our residents that included physical programs selected by our wellness department, music by our music therapy department, spiritual programs by our spiritual care department and a variety of cognitive, educational and special event programs provided by our department. Our entire team across campus pulled together to provide livestream programming that would meet the needs of our residents and continue to keep them engaged, despite having to remain in their rooms. Bingo was a challenge for us to figure out because it was so important to all of our residents on campus. We were able to livestream our bingo software onto the resident televisions and call the numbers, as well. We now have residents in our retirement living, personal care and health care areas playing along with our virtual bingo each Friday.

August 2020 Things look much different this month! In addition to our active livestream program schedule, we are looking forward to beginning small group implementation. With the COVID-19 situation so fluid, we need to prepare while being flexible, as things can change quickly yet again. We have learned so much through this. Our need to adapt and push ourselves to grow in ways we couldn’t imagine has helped us in the long run. We now know how to utilize technology to connect families who live in other states and previously would not have had the opportunity to visit. We now know how to utilize our livestreaming capabilities to bring engaging programs to residents, even during times such as flu outbreaks or further COVID outbreaks. We now know how strong our teams are and how much we can depend on each other.

Kim Sullivan, CTRS, Resident Experience Director, The Haven at Springwood

COVID-19 has brought much chaos to my work environment, but I remind myself daily that the chaos I experience cannot compete with what my residents have been dealing with for almost six months. When news began to break about the seriousness of COVID-19 and residents found themselves isolated to their rooms, there was a lot of fear and anxiousness surrounding the virus and wanting to know just how long all of this was going to last. My department turned on its heels to move in a completely different direction in regards to programming–at first, my residents found novelty and delight in seeing what we would come up with next. How we would make life feel as “normal” as it could under these circumstances. How we would keep them connected to their loved ones. Six months later, the novelty has worn off in many ways. But with all that has changed in the last six months, my department and my team have remained constant–we have and always will be committed to supporting our residents’ well-being. We will stretch our creativity and flexibility to the ends of the earth to provide for them. I have learned many things traversing this pandemic while working in long term care, but two of the most important are, 1) I am stronger emotionally than I ever thought possible, and have found strength in others as well as been the strength for my residents. And, 2) I have built stronger bonds with my residents and their families more in these last six months than I have in my entire career in this field. I have known the importance of recreation therapy and seen its impact, and I feel now more than ever that all others can see it, too. We are truly ESSENTIAL! We are a lifeline for our residents right now. We have stepped into roles that we never thought we’d have to–but we stepped forward into them without a second thought. For now we must continue to step forward, together, through this and to the other side, to our “new normal.”

I hope, as you reflect on what contributors have shared, you consider how you might make a difference in this challenging situation. Residents and staff can benefit from your engagement. Let’s be a mutual aid group of recreation and human service professionals dedicated to finding out how best to give and get support in coping with Covid 19. The virus may keep us apart but we can communicate and work together to keep any of us from being alone.

Teresa Rash, CTRS and her creative staff at the Margaret E. Moul Home shared this wonderful example of adapting to the Covid challenge:
Our Residents loved attending the York Fair every year. Since that was not possible this year we decided to bring some of the fair to our residents with a food truck event. We also had an afternoon of carnival games. The event was enjoyed by residents and staff.
Photo credit: Donna Keller

Essential Services: Activities and Recreational Therapy Professionals Making A Difference!

Compiled by Jeff Witman, CTRS, FDRT, Professor Emeritus, Applied Behavioral Sciences, York College of PA

On March 11, 2020 I had the privilege of speaking to the Lancaster Activity Directors Association’s monthly meeting at Brethren Village. We greeted each other with handshakes and hugs, enjoyed a buffet lunch sitting 8 to a table, sang a song and practiced Tai chi as a group. Within a week these activities and many others were no longer happening in attendees’ work places.

Covid 19 continues to have a profound effect on nursing homes and other healthcare facilities in Pennsylvania. In this edition of Dig It and the next (coming on October 5) four front-liners share their perspectives on responding to the virus.

Mary Schreiber, CTRS, Therapeutic Recreation Manager, Luthercare

As a Recreation Therapist in a long-term care facility that was sadly and significantly impacted by Covid-19, my world has been forever changed and is still changing. My role is now considerably different than it ever was and is now twofold: providing meaningful and purposeful activities to fight boredom and isolation, and keeping residents connected to people important in their lives. Thanks to a very dedicated Therapeutic Recreation team, we’ve been able to offer traveling activities to provide physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual opportunities. Video chats and window visits between residents and family members have become creative opportunities to engage as visitors sing, pray, and laugh together. Most important of all, we have ongoing open dialogue with our residents about the changes that are happening around them. As we move toward recovery and healing, there have been some bright spots along the way. We have seen resilience on display from our residents, a generation who already survived numerous hardships in their lifetime. As they cope with the feelings and emotions that come with restrictions on visitors and gatherings, they are again rising, this time with determination that COVID-19 will not define them.

Mary Ligon, PhD, CTRS, Associate Professor of Gerontology, York College and York Hospital

What: I was serving as a chaplain in a Medical-Surgical Hospital when COVID-19 occurred. In a hospital setting, chaplains meet the emotional and spiritual needs of patients, families, and staff. COVID-19 had a huge impact on the work of chaplains. Whereas before we went to patients’ rooms to meet with them, now we were restricted to calling patients on the phone unless it was an end of life situation. This lack of personal contact was very hard on many patients. During one phone conversation, a patient said to me, “If I could choose a diamond ring or a hug, I’d take a hug right now. But I can’t have either.” For a period of time, no visitors were permitted into the hospital at all, except in the occurrence of end of life. This was an extreme hardship for patients and families alike. As we called patients on the phone, one of the most common concerns they expressed was their feelings of loneliness and isolation because they could not be with their loved ones while going through their hospitalization. Phone calls, FaceTime and Skype helped alleviate the loneliness to a degree but they did not replace the need for human contact. The stress felt by patients and families was passed along the staff which impacted them tremendously. This stress was on top of the stress staff were already feeling because of fears for their own well-being or fears of bringing something home to their families. Caring for the emotional and spiritual needs of the staff became a top priority for chaplains. As an example, I was invited by a Unit Manager to come at the shift change and pray for and bless the nursing staff on a medical unit one day. She explained how overwhelmed people were feeling. They seemed to truly appreciate this blessing. Additionally, the Spiritual Care Department began offering weekly prayer times via zoom for the staff so they could express their concerns, needs, and joys there. Eventually, the chaplains were permitted to return to visiting patients in-person. But now we do so with masks on and carefully using our PPE (personal protection equipment). It’s a relief yet also brings new challenges and anxieties.

So What: In a hospital setting, people face crisis situations daily which brings out the need for emotional and spiritual support. COVID-19 heightened those anxieties. The most apparent lesson I learned from going through the time of COVID-19 in a hospital setting is that people need people and this need is never stronger than when faced with a crisis on top of a crisis. Modern technology is wonderful. Thank goodness for the old-school hospital phones that allowed us to converse with patients. Thank goodness for Video Chats that allowed patients to ‘see’ their loved ones. At the same time, I think we all became aware of how much we need in-person contact and human touch.

Now What: They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Perhaps we’re a bit more resilient having faced the hardships that have come with COVID-19. Perhaps we appreciate technology in a new way. Most of all, I hope we appreciate the people in our lives and value being with them in good times and bad. COVID-19 brought many hardships and tragedies. I hope we can hold on to the valuable lessons that came with it.

Mary Schreiber
Mary Ligon

Reprioritizing Fall Maintenance Efforts

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

The Pennsylvania Park Maintenance Institute advocates the identification of managed landscapes and other green space as critical infrastructure to human health and happiness, and promotes good environmental stewardship of those spaces. As a result of the pandemic, communities are rediscovering the importance of connecting to the outdoors, and park utilization has increased dramatically. With uncertainty of financial resources, efficiencies in maintenance efforts have never been more vital for the longevity of our capital investments in parks. The following suggestions are intended to provide strategic guidance as park superintendents, property managers, and ground crews schedule tasks for the next few months.

Inspect equipment and assess your needs for next season. Clean, inspect, and maintain your mowers, trimmers, leaf blowers, hand tools, vehicles and heavy equipment. Get out attachments needed for fall like aerators or mulching attachments. Inspect and prepare your snow removal equipment like plows, buckets, snow blowers, and shovels, because winter is just around the corner. Take any equipment that needs it to an authorized service representative before the next rush. Preventative maintenance while the weather is favorable will reduce potential hazards from reactive repair in the field while snow is flying.

Keep your fields healthy by aerating. Aeration minimizes soil compaction from heavy use and helps to prevent thatch, a thick layer of roots, stems, and debris that blocks water, oxygen and nutrients from reaching the soil. Deprived of their basic needs by compacted soil, grasses struggle in stressful situations, such as heat and low rainfall, and lose their healthy, rich color. Grasses gradually thin and eventually die out completely, for lack of the oxygen, water and nutrients available just inches away. Aeration encourages roots to grow deeper, encourages greener, thicker turf, and reduces runoff because fields are able to absorb more water.

Continue to mow throughout the fall season. Even though daylight continues to get shorter over the next few months, grass will continue to grow. It is important to continue mowing until the first hard frost. Research the just-right height for your turf based upon species, typically between 2-3 inches, to keep the grass healthy when it turns cold. Maintaining grass height before winter can minimize diseases, like snow mold, that occur when grass is too long over the winter. Additionally, longer grass during winter may encourage vole activity.

Identify which trees or bushes need pruning. While thinning and reduction pruning is not recommended in the fall, it is an opportune time to remove any dead or damaged limbs. Be aware of low-hanging branches that might snap or break under the weight of snow in the winter and cause damage to trees and shrubs. Additionally, Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is a good timing window to remove suckers, trim any perennials with disease issues, cut back plants prone to slugs like hosta, delphinium, or lupine, and prune shrub roses. Be sure to connect with a certified professional to avoid damaging plants, if you do not have someone with expertise on staff.

Reconsider how to manage leaves. With tighter budgets, it is time to reconsider where to cut costs. When you rake or blow and remove leaves, it costs you more than some of the alternative methods. Mulching leaves and leaving them on the grass, rather than raking and bagging them, is good for the turf and the environment. As shredded leaves decompose, they feed grass naturally.  Shredded leaves also make for excellent mulch in flower beds, or could be used to make rich compost for community gardens.  However, too much of a good thing can be bad. A layer of leaves one-fourth to three-eighths inch thick can do some serious damage to your turf. Wet or frozen leaves basically will form a mat over your lawn when the snow comes down. This blocks out the sun, suffocates your lawn, and could increase the chance for fungal diseases.

Although park facilities are the most visible resource our industry provides, essential maintenance services are often taken for granted — not only by residents, but also by the organizations that are responsible for development and stewardship. Ground breakings and ribbon cuttings provide great publicity events, however daily maintenance efforts are the tasks required to provide safe and inclusive space, and offer healthy environments where people can develop a sense of community, identity, and belonging. The Pennsylvania Park Maintenance Institute provides all the resources you need streamline your operations – all in one place.

Brian “BK” Koehler is the director of the Pennsylvania Park Maintenance Institute. BK holds degrees in educational theory and production experience in corporate training and development. He can be reached on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/koehlerbrian/ or emailed at bk@prps.orgwww.prps.org/maintenanceinstitute

WARNING-Now entering hostile territory

We’ve all been there before. We have to approach a patron or customer and talk with them about something that they aren’t going to like. Maybe they’re wearing inappropriate swimwear, or they have brought something into your facility that isn’t allowed, or maybe they’re being unsafe in some way. Either way, you know in your head that they aren’t going to enjoy being approached by a manager or an authoritative figure. This is the moment in time when you can either make or break this interaction. Allow me to share some tips that I’ve collected over the years (sometimes learning things the hard way) that have helped me in these situations.

Number one-envision the interaction going positively in your mind. I know it sounds corny, but I’ve done this over the years and it has helped immensely. Whatever the situation, I always go through the scenario playing out in my mind. I take it literally one step at a time-I picture myself approaching the customer, introducing myself. Then I’ll ask them if they’ve visited our facility before and explain the infraction. They smile, laugh, say they completely understand and apologize for the misunderstanding, then we high five and I’m off to the next part of my day. Okay, okay, so it almost never, ever goes that way, but if you envision it going positively, you instantly gain confidence in the interaction you’re about to have.

Number two-use soft words during the interaction. Avoid words that are confrontational or demeaning. You don’t want to give any indication that you are above this individual or are in any way trying to put them down. Chances are, the individual you are approaching is already going to be on the defensive, so be cautious and think about the language and tone you are using. If a customer is breaking a rule you might respond with “You may not have been aware” rather than  “You didn’t know about the rule.” It seems small, but it can make a world of difference.

Number three-this is the easiest thing you can do, but I find that not enough people do this in today’s world-SMILE! If you approach someone with a kind smile (and maintain it), it is much more difficult for that person to become angry with you. Sure, they may question your sanity and think it’s strange, but they will have a harder time holding onto anger and that’s what you want in the long run!

Finally, realize that even if you do everything that I’m suggesting, and throw in a few of your own, the interaction could still go sideways in a hurry. If that happens, take a deep breath, stay calm, and know that somewhere else, at that very moment, there is a recreation professional having the same conversation and feeling the same things you are. That should give you enough encouragement to carry on confidently!

The Strange Fruit of Complacency

By: Camila Rivera-Tinsley

Southern trees bear strange fruit 
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root 
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze 
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. 

Pastoral scene of the gallant south 
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth 
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh 
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh. 

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck 
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck 
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop 
Here is a strange and bitter crop. 

Did the imagery of the poem above shock you? Does the juxtaposition of the beauty of a tree bearing fruit, and sadness of a tree being used to bear the fruits of racism disturb you? If the answer is yes, then a portion of my mission has been accomplished. The poem above is symbolic of the complicated narrative and relationship that exists between Black bodies and green spaces. 

I am many things; a woman, a mother, an educator, a parks practitioner, a lover of humans and nature and green space, an advocate of overlooked people and places, and I am also melanated. These days, I feel my melanin more than ever, and the ways that that small phenotypic difference shapes my experiences. I am never free of the burden (or the power) of being Black in America.  

What does being Black in America mean? What does being Black in the parks and rec world mean? What does it mean to be Black in the environmental world? These are questions that I confront daily, just by waking up and going to work. I consider how I am perceived by the world and my peers. I adjust my language so that I am sure to signal to others that I am “smart” enough to exist in the space that I am in, and I am intentional to seem non-threatening so that I am better received. I am consistently aware that I am often the only representative voice in a space, and as such I am often both the representation and the advocate for whole groups of people. I am also keenly aware that the urgency that I feel to change the world, is often not felt by others, until blood is shed. That is a hard a lonely space to live in. Sometimes, I do not feel protected or emotionally safe. 

This begs the question for me, how are we protecting people of color that enter the parks that we steward? How are we protecting our coworkers, our community members, or the students that show up to our various camps and programs? How are we actively confronting the weaponization of blackness in green spaces? 

To borrow from a famous leader, there is a fierce urgency right now. We must confront and actively challenge and change the ways that our organizations are complicit in perpetuating structural inequities. We must change our narratives. We must commit to active change. We must not let complacency continue to bear its strange fruit. No more blood should spill in the streets or on the leaves. 

I am calling on all my peers to stand up for me and for the other black bodies that inhabit predominantly white spaces. I am calling on you to have hard conversations, to reflect on your biases. I am calling on you to create budgets that demonstrate a commitment to equity. I am calling on you to ensure that your staff and board are reflective of the communities that you serve. I am calling on you to reinterpret green spaces and actively seek to uplift black and brown voice. I am calling on you… 

Let us please bear new fruit in the future. 

Civility – It Starts with You

Most days, it feels like the world has gone mad. Or at least, it’s tilted on its axis in a new way, so we’re all getting used to things being different.

When my calendar reminded me that way back at the end of 2019 I agreed to write this blog post on Civility in August, I must confess, I literally blanked. Civility? Is it even a thing anymore?

My mind whirled with images: people are angry and afraid – about money, about their futures, about their health, about the state of the country and its leadership, about so many things. And I watch in awe as it manifests in the complete feeling of entitlement to shout at strangers in the grocery store who have a different mask choice than you do (including ramming and injuring that person with a cart or tearing a display of masks to shreds while shouting epitaphs)… to road rage… to writing nasty hateful messages on the Governor’s social media pages or shouting at School Administrators who are not making the choice that most fits your individual family needs.

No need to go on about that. We’re living it.

So where does Civility, Kindness, Compassion, and Humor have a place in this angry, stressed, and in some cases mentally unstable world.

Woman Smiling Photo
Can you see her smile? YES – look at the eyes and cheeks…

Let me suggest a theory – it all starts with YOU. With Each of Us. Because you can only control you, but also because you have influence.

Yesterday I was curving through the strangely laid out parking lot of a busy Starbucks when I came parallel with the drive through and the woman in that car started to pull forward without looking. I immediately slowed and there we were, door side to door side, face to face through our windows, who was going to go first. I confess, the weary part of my brain wanted to say “thanks for pulling ahead without looking” but it was a weary thought, and certainly not accompanied by any hand gestures etc. But the woman saw me and smiled – WOW – and waved me forward. So I then waved my thanks with a happy smile and we waved and laughed and waved again as I pulled my car forward. WOW, how lovely, civility and humor and friendliness in a dark world.

I wonder if we can find our own level equilibrium, take our own deep breath before we go forth into the world, and try harder than ever to be civil and kind in this crazy place.

Even smiling feels hard – with the mask on. I’ve heard people say they are amusing themselves by making funny faces behind the mask, or whispering words. I think a good old fashioned smile is still important. And a verbal hello equally so. (Remember the 5 foot 10 foot rule? Let’s do it!)

I recently attended the Global Leadership Summit (virtually!) and had the opportunity to listen to amazing thought leaders  from around the world speak about the challenges that face us and our world. An additional session that I particularly enjoyed was Vanessa Van Edwards and her theories on human interaction.

Let me share two tidbits that I pulled from her presentation.

1) Your smile still shows behind your mask. Have you ever seen a smile that “didn’t reach someone’s eyes”? It’s like the fake “I will show you my teeth” smile but the eyes are flat. Well, a genuine smile includes the muscles around the eyes, the eye shape, the lines around the eyes (yes!), and the forehead. So SMILE smile smile behind that mask. And say a verbal hello.

2) From back in the caveman days, people are primed to see our hands. If we have our hands behind our backs, the amygdala in the brain starts to wonder, what are they up to? When the hands are visible but neutral, the other person’s brain is signaled that “I am a friend”. Vanessa literally suggested, and this is important for all these virtual meetings too, that when we approach someone we do a two handed wave. Sounds cheesy but she demonstrated with three wags of her right hand and then three wags of the left hand. That “hi-hi-hi” with each hand is a calm and friendly opening to “prime” the other person for a good interaction with us.

Now, if we apply that idea, let’s say you’re walking up to someone while smiling behind your mask, a friendly hello, and both hands lifted in whatever wave feels comfortable. This is priming – you’re getting the interaction started off on the right foot.

I’ll leave you with one last story… My friend was walking into our local Walmart, masked, when he observed at the entrance a middle aged man yelling and swearing at the young female staff person who was asking/telling people they must wear a mask in the store. My friend walked up and said “Hey buddy, back off, she’s just doing what she was told to do.” The guy pulled back, perhaps embarrassed, and then stomped off to his car to get a mask. My friend hung around and chatted with the woman, who confided how frightening and exhausting her job is right now, when she gets abuse every few minutes for the hours that she’s working that post. Can you imagine!? I would be a puddle of tears on the sidewalk.

Now, why did that interaction work? My friend said “Hey buddy” in a friendly reasonable tone, AND put his hands up in front of him with palms out, to show non-confrontation. It very easily could have gone the other way into violence.

What happened next? Two things – the man came back and apologized to both of them. He said things are just really getting to him lately, he can’t keep his cool. He was embarrassed but with a lot of head nodding, he entered the store (masked).

Also, my friend remained, arms crossed over his chest (which is more confrontational) and hung out with the staff person for about 20 minutes chatting. Three more times, he used the same language to defend her but they also observed together that people were less likely to yell at her with him standing there and she was grateful for the break. Interestingly – men were less likely to yell at her and passed by with grumbles, but women still felt completely comfortable to yell, including at my friend. (I would love to do a psychological study on that one).

So, in wrapping up:

Can you be the pleasant one, in whatever situation you find yourself in?

Can you embrace humor and find – and share – laughter in a world gone crazy?

If YOU are the one who is teetering so close to losing your cool, who can you ask for help? Whether that is helping you get groceries so you aren’t tempted to ram people with your cart or just talk with you about the things that are piling up?

Can we be that breath of fresh friendly air for someone else?

Can we help someone who is getting ready to melt down or protect someone (carefully) who is being verbally attacked?

It all starts with You – with US – each of us. We can be the spark for good or ill, and we must make a concerted effort to do just that.

I have an old purple T shirt that says “Build a Better World” in bright script. I’ve worn it for years without a comment, but recently, wearing it while traveling, many many people commented on it. Even a fun and friendly T shirt is a start.

Be well.

Grant Writing 101

As September approaches, Parks & Recreation Departments will be in the thick of budget season with many new questions in the current COVID-19 world.  While operating budgets are being meticulously picked through and may be subject to no increase or a decrease, the importance of capital improvement projects for our existing infrastructure and creating new community amenities is more evident now than ever.  Faced with the temporary closure of many recreation opportunities and lots of free time, residents have rediscovered the ease of visiting their local, regional and state parks. 

When faced with paying for capital improvements in our parks, grants have traditionally provided the financial or resource support to help those projects become reality.  With Congress passing the Great American Outdoors Act on July 22, 2020, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is now funded at its fullest level.  There is now even greater financial stability for PA DCNR to support projects throughout the Commonwealth – including your capital improvements!

If this is your first time ever applying or you’re a veteran, keep these steps in mind as you navigate the grant process:     

Step 1: Choosing the Project – Select a project that appears in one or more of your long-term planning documents, fulfills a pressing need in your community and/or builds upon a previously funded endeavour.  

Step 2: Choosing a Grant – There are many funding sources out there, but try and find partners that align with the spirit of your project.  Begin your search with PA DCNR, PA DCED, PRPS and NRPA.

Step 3: Do Your Research – When reviewing the grant application, review the background documents referred to in the application.  These documents will routinely provide you with the criteria that your request should be addressing.  If you do not have the time to review the entire document(s), split the work up amongst several staff members.  This is a great way to get project buy-in and gain other perspectives.  And don’t forget to review your own planning documents for references to your project so you can highlight the work being part of a larger community plan.       

Step 4: Be Creative – So you aren’t sure that your project fits the bill?  Don’t be afraid to think creatively about how your project, its goal and the impact on your community connects to the goals of the funding partner.  Mine those background documents and search for connections between your project and the grant.   

Step 5: Bullet Points for Precision – Use a bullet point method during two distinct parts of the process: 1. When reviewing the questions, create a running list of every way your project applies to the question. & 2. When answering the questions, consider using bullet points as part of your answer to make it obvious to the reviewers how you are addressing the questions – don’t bury your answer in fluffy text.  Be direct and to the point.  

While the grant application process may appear daunting, but when broken down into small bites, you’ll find it manageable and absolutely achievable. 

Zero Waste as a Priority for Parks & Recreation

Helping communities grow through sustainability initiatives

By Daniel Lawson, Sustainability & Quality Control Manager for Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

When the pandemic caused disruptions to programs and services, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) found a way to keep one of them afloat. Over seven weeks PPR donated 61 tons of compost and 30 tons of mulch to citizens and urban agriculture projects. This is exactly the type of action a parks and recreation system should be prioritizing.

Supporting the community in its time of need is in the DNA of park and recreation systems, including PPR. Throughout the 20th century, recreation centers provided the first safe structured youth engagement, fed out-of-work adults during the Great Depression, and collected recycled materials to support the war effort during WWII. Almost a century later the Department is still providing those safe spaces, feeding the city and leading a charge in reducing waste. And that last action can be more than maintenance. It can be mission.

Currently, PPR is

  • revamping recycling collections at all 156 recreation centers
  • teaming-up with non-profits to donate uneaten meals from afterschool and camps
  • generating over 5,000 tons of mulch and compost a year at its Organic Recycling Center
  • exploring urban wood use to include lumber and live slab production
  • managing city-wide annual races and celebrations as zero waste events
  • activating the inaugural 12 hyper-local Community Compost Network sites
  • launching a partnership with a local food composter to operate on park land in exchange for food scrap collections from every city recreation center

These zero waste innovations belong with a parks and recreation department. Beyond accessible places of leisure, public parks are a place where a wide audience can be exposed to something new. One of PPR’s stoic mottos is We Help People Grow, and those four simple words say a lot. The Department


But through advances in infrastructure and practice the Department can Help People Grow as a whole. Consider the example set at a rec center that feeds children every day offering a way to compost or donate food. Consider the impact of 30,000 people running in a Marathon that achieves 90% waste diversion. Consider the message given when residents can build something out of wood salvaged right from their local urban forest by their parks department.


A parks and recreation department can provide more than a physical green space. It can provide a social and mental green space that influences its users, young and old, to value that space. To value the natural resources in their backyard, and the planet they inhabit. Every day a neighbor walks their dog through a park, or a student sits down in an afterschool program, the space can be an example of what their community and world can look like.

What Are You Really Getting with 0% Interest Offers?

by Sara Weiser, Consumer Education Strategist, PSECU

money-256314_1920 (1)Paying nothing in interest sure seems appealing, especially now. If you’re fielding 0% credit card balance transfer offers or considering a 0% auto loan, be sure to dive deep into the particulars to make sure you don’t end up paying more in the long run.

Read on to learn tips for evaluating these offers.

Auto Loan Financing
When you’re shopping for a car, you have several options for financing. You can get preapproval from a financial institution, like PSECU, before you go to the dealer. Or, you can have the dealer search for financing offers for you. Some of the offers a dealer presents may include financing directly from auto manufacturers.

Financing offers from auto manufacturers can seem very competitive. Some require no down payment, offer 0% interest, or have cash rebates.

Evaluating 0% Financing from Auto Manufacturers
Financing from auto manufacturers often gives buyers a tough choice to make – you can get 0% financing or take a cash rebate and use financing of your choosing.

On the surface, it seems obvious that you’d want the 0% financing. However, depending on the size of the rebate, it may be better for you to choose your own financing from your preferred lender, like PSECU, and pair it with the cash rebate.

Consider the examples below for a car purchase that you need $25,000 for (both are 60-month loans). By taking the rebate and combining it with a PSECU loan, you’ll save more than if you take the 0% financing offer from the dealer – both in monthly payments and the total loan repayment amount.

The amounts below were calculated using our auto loan calculator. To get an idea of how much a car loan with PSECU might cost you, visit our vehicle calculators page and enter the amount you’re looking to finance and your desired term.

With a 0% Auto Manufacturer Loan             With a 3.49%1 PSECU Loan and the Rebate

Car price: $25,000                                    Car price: $25,00

Rebate: $0                                                  Rebate: $4,000

Amount you need to finance: $25,000      Amount you need to finance: $21,000

Interest rate: 0%                                            Interest rate: 3.49

Monthly payment: $416.67                          Monthly payment: $381.93

Total loan repayment: $25,000                   Total loan repayment: $22,915.80

Above example for informational purposes only. Actual terms will vary. See psecu.com/drive for important information.

Credit Card Balance Transfer Offers
Balance transfers on credit cards allow you to move the money you owe from one credit card to another. Typically, these offers are advantageous if the card you’re transferring the balance to has a lower interest rate than the card you’re moving the balance from.

By moving money to a credit card with a lower interest rate, your balance accrues less interest and your payments go further in paying off the actual principal balance on the card.

Evaluating 0% Credit Card Balance Transfer Offers
If you receive a 0% interest credit card balance transfer offer, make sure you read the fine print before jumping in. There are many more factors to consider, other than just the initial interest rate.

      • Length of offer – Most balance transfer offers expire after a set period of time (either a certain number of months or a specific date).
      • Regular interest rate – Once an initial balance transfer rate expires, the remaining balance typically is charged the regular interest rate of the card.
      • How much you can pay – If you can’t make more than the minimum payment on the card, you may still be left with a high balance after the balance transfer period expires, leaving you with a big chunk to pay down at the higher interest rate. If the regular interest rate on the new card is higher than the rate on the old card, you may end up losing money in the long run.
      • Fees – Many financial institutions offer attractive balance transfer interest rates, but they come with balance transfer fees. These fees may be a set dollar amount or a percentage of the balance you’re transferring and can diminish your savings even more (or make it nonexistent).

Balance Transfer Offers from PSECU
While our balance transfer offer may not seem as flashy on the surface, many of the factors above make a balance transfer offer from us a better deal for you.

Though rates are subject to change at any time, we currently offer balance transfer rates of 2.9%2 on our Classic Card (after the promotional rate expires, rate will reflect our standard cash advance rate of 9.9% APR, subject to change) and 3.9%3 on our Founder’s Card with no balance transfer fees (after the promotional rate expires, rate will reflect our standard cash advance rate, which is Prime plus a margin of 9.15%). These current offers are good through December 31, 2021, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the lower interest rate.

Even after the promotional balance transfer rates expire, our regular interest rates are typically lower than industry averages, so you’ll likely still save money paying down any remaining balance on the card, saving you money in both the short and long term.

What’s the Right Choice for Me?
Ultimately, whether it’s a car loan or a credit card balance transfer, you’ll need to evaluate your personal situation and make the best decision based on your circumstances. Take time to consider all of the factors listed above to determine if 0% financing will truly save you in the long run.

With low rates and loan term options to fit your needs, our no-hassle auto financing helps your vehicle fit into your life. To see our rates, estimate your monthly car payment, and apply for an auto loan, visit psecu.com/drive. The application process takes as little as 20 minutes and you’ll receive your loan decision fast – often within minutes and usually on the same day.

If you want to save big, consider moving your high-interest credit card balances to one of our Visa credit cards. We don’t charge an annual fee, inactivity fee, or application fee, and moving a balance from another credit card to your PSECU credit card is quick and easy. Find out how much you can save and apply at psecu.com/move.

1Rates reflect a .25% APR reduction for Automatic Payment Service and loan amounts up to 100% of the retail value of the vehicle. Your rate will increase if you discontinue Automatic Payment Service. PSECU will charge an additional 2% to the current interest rate when financing a vehicle for more than 100% and up to 120% of the retail value, and an additional 3% to the current interest rate when financing a vehicle for more than 120% and up to 130% of the retail value. PSECU will only finance up to 100% of the retail value of the vehicle for refinance of an existing PSECU vehicle loan. Monthly payment example: 36 monthly payments of $28.86 per $1,000 borrowed at the 2.49% APR or 60 monthly payments of $18.19 per $1,000 borrowed at the 3.49% APR. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price determines new vehicle values; Kelley Blue Book® or other authorized guides determine used vehicle values. Minimum value is $3,000. PSECU makes all final decisions regarding vehicle value and proper rate. Loan rates are subject to change. Kelley Blue Book® is a registered trademark of the Kelley Blue Book Co., Inc.

2PSECU Visa® Classic Card/Visa® Alumni Classic Card: When you take advantage of the 2.9% APR (Annual Percentage Rate) promotional offer, Visa® balance transfers will be treated as a cash advance and will accrue interest at 2.9% APR from the time that the transaction posts until 12/31/21; thereafter, any remaining balance will begin to accrue interest at the cash advance rate, which is currently 9.9% APR and subject to change. Payments will be applied as stated in your Visa® Classic and Visa® Alumni Classic Consumer Credit Card Agreement. A minimum of $250 must be requested for balance transfers through digital banking. Our 2.9% APR promotional offer cannot be used to pay off any PSECU loan or be made payable to cash, yourself, any joint owner(s) or co-maker(s). Balance transfers access credit under the terms of your Visa® account as stated in the Visa® Classic and Visa® Alumni Classic Consumer Credit Card Agreement.

3PSECU Visa® Founder’s Card/Visa® Alumni Rewards Card: When you take advantage of the 3.9% APR (Annual Percentage Rate) promotional offer, Visa® Founder’s Card/Visa® Alumni Rewards Card balance transfers will be treated as a cash advance and will accrue interest at 3.9% APR from the time that the transaction posts until 12/31/21; thereafter, any remaining balance will begin to accrue interest at the cash advance rate, which is a variable APR equal to the Prime Rate plus a margin of 9.15%. Payments will be applied as stated in your PSECU Visa® Founder’s and Visa® Alumni Rewards Consumer Credit Card Agreement. A minimum of $250 must be requested for balance transfers through digital banking. Our 3.9% APR promotional offer cannot be used to pay off any PSECU loan or be made payable to cash, yourself, any joint owner(s) or co-maker(s). Balance transfers do not qualify as eligible purchases for the cash back reward program. Balance transfers access credit under the terms of your Visa® Founder’s Card/Visa® Alumni Rewards Card account as stated in the PSECU Visa® Founder’s and Visa® Alumni Rewards Consumer Credit Card Agreement.

The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Some products not offered by PSECU. PSECU does not endorse any third parties, including, but not limited to, referenced individuals, companies, organizations, products, blogs, or websites. PSECU does not warrant any advice provided by third parties. PSECU does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided by third parties. PSECU recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.