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Lehigh Gap Nature Center Growing Strong with Lehigh Valley Community Foundation Support

So much can be accomplished when seed money is used to fund a great idea.  Three years ago, the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation did just that by giving a grant to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center that has bloomed into something special.

Recently the Nature Center’s Dan Kunkle, executive director, and Kate Brandes, conservation landscaping program manager, stopped in to the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation offices in Allentown to provide an update on their “Landscaping for Communities and Wildlife Program.”Recently the Nature Center’s Dan Kunkle, executive director, and Kate Brandes, conservation landscaping program manager, stopped in to the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation offices in Allentown to provide an update on their “Landscaping for Communities and Wildlife Program.”

The program, supported in part by the Foundation, is completing its third year of an anticipated five-year grant cycle and has made significant progress.  Its impact includes 35 projects across the Lehigh Valley including a garden in each of the three Valley cities. A sample of projects include gardens on 7th Street in Allentown, Riparian plantings in Trexler Park, Circle of Season Charter School student garden project, gardens at Northampton Community College, The Children’s Home of Easton, and Emmaus Library.  In addition, they have held a number of residential and public workshops and presentations across the Valley at colleges, libraries, and schools.

 “The project wouldn’t have been off the ground without the initial support of the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation,” said Dan Kunkle. “The Foundation made that initial investment and we have been able to leverage it to grow the project, seek additional public and private support, and get a great return on the Foundation’s initial investment.”

In 2013, the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation took a calculated chance on a new idea that promised a positive impact on the environment.  Three years later, it has bloomed into a full-fledged eco-friendly program.  “We are so pleased with the progress demonstrated by Dan and Kate at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center,” said Bernie Story, president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation.  “I have a great appreciation for their efforts to increase the green spaces across the Valley, their work to engage the community, and the partnerships they have formed with the local Colleges and others to deliver programs and workshops.”

The Landscaping for Communities and Wildlife Program seeks to demonstrate how well-designed eco-friendly landscaping techniques can be used in place of traditional practices (pesticides, fertilizers, etc.) that can be harmful to the local ecosystems and waterways. The first three years of the project has focused on public spaces. The Center is now shifting to a residential focus and designing spaces for middle- and low-income residents and they are increasing efforts to “get the word out.”

“We strongly believe the community collective impact model that we are implementing can really move the needle,” said Brandes. “Our conservation efforts are strengthened through the relationships we maintain with our partner organizations.  We are confident that at the end of the project, our community engagement approach, informed by the lessons we learn over 5 years, will serve as a model for other communities and enable us to have an even bigger impact.”

“Proactive longer- term grant making is good way to go for the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation,” Story added.  “In this case, it has proven to be a solid investment that continues to grow and benefit the community.”

Lehigh Gap Nature CenterThe Lehigh Gap Nature Center is a member-supported 501(c)3 non-profit conservation organization located in the Lehigh Gap, at the foot of the Kittatinny Ridge, near Slatington, Pa. Its mission is to protect the wildlife and enhance the habitats of our Refuge and the neighboring Kittatinny Ridge. The organization promotes conservation in the Lehigh River Watershed through education, research, and outdoor recreation for the benefit of present and future generations. Learn more at: http://lgnc.org.

If you know of a landscaping project that would benefit the community and meets the mission of this project, please contact Kate Brandes at kate@lgnc.org.
Download the Residential Planting Guide (.pdf file).

The Lehigh Valley Community Foundation is a permanent foundation that provides grants to improve the quality of life in the Greater Lehigh Valley.  The Foundation gathers and pool contributions large and small, invests them wisely for growth, and makes grants to a wide variety of charitable organizations. Learn more at www.lvcfounation.org.

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