By Margaret Chen
As a rising junior at Haverford College, I never really realized how vast Haverford Township was until I started interning at HPED, or Haverford Partnership of Economic Development. Because of the Whitehead Internship Program, I was given the opportunity to intern at this non-profit organization whom not only showed me how many nearby, cool businesses that my fellow classmates and I haven’t experienced yet but also gave me so much knowledge about community development, business revitalization, and environmental design.
HPED’s main goals as an organization are to support local businesses and revitalize business districts by doing beautification projects, promotion/advertising for small businesses, and hosting networking and business assistance events. They hope, through these projects, to promote economic growth and beautification in the surrounding Haverford community.
My internship experience has definitely aligned with HPED’s goals. For example, I went with HPED’s executive director, Jeanne Angell, and one of Haverford Township’s commissioners, Mario Oliva, to the Pennsylvania Downtown Conference in Erie, PA where I learned about Main Street and Elm Street programs which are community development models that HPED has been following. In the conference, I learned about different aspects of these programs such as how to economically structure a new improved business district and how to create affordable, energy efficient public housing. As an Environmental Studies major interested in sustainable design, in this conference I really enjoyed learning about how to engage community development through environmentally-conscious based projects and outdoor beautification projects.
After the conference, I learned more about community development and business revitalization through day-to-day experiences. Throughout each week, I help Jeanne and Amy Sweeney, the project coordinator of HPED, with different projects; for example, I help Amy with interviewing new businesses and I write articles about them to promote their business. In addition, I’ve learned more about business revitalization through updating HPED’s business recruitment guides and got some experience networking by helping out at HPED’s Meet & Greet event, a networking event for Haverford businesses, Haverford Township staff, and the HPED board. There’s always a physical element every week because I help both of them beautify business districts by weeding and planting in planters.
A major project that I am working on is implementing rain gardens and stormwater planters in the Township’s business districts. I work with Peter S. Puglionesi, who is on the Haverford Township for Environmental Advisory Committee, to find local businesses that have the potential of having these garden features. Rain gardens and stormwater planters combine native plants and environmental engineered design to reduce the amount of flooding and provide beautification to a property. While Peter does the formal assessments for interested properties (since he’s an environmental engineer), I look for businesses to recruit for stormwater planters and rain gardens, make the initial contact with them, explaining how the program works, and I have created a handbook which outlines each property we are targeting. Although there were some rejections from businesses, I am excited that I have been able to get a few businesses to agree to having a planter! During this project, I unexpectedly learned a lot about environmental engineering in terms of how to assess a building for water damage, stormwater drains and systems, and the mechanics of rainwater gardens and stormwater planters. And, I got to help make a rainwater garden for a residential property.
I’ve learned a lot from this internship, from the ways to support businesses to skills that I will take in my further career paths. For example, I’ve gotten more confident in talking in more of a professional setting. Through this experience, I had to put myself out there by calling people about rain gardens to walking into businesses to advertise about HPED. These little tasks that I had to complete were challenging at first, but through these past seven weeks, I’ve gotten much more comfortable in this professional setting. I’ve also learned that people working in a community development organization are really passionate about their work. The people I work with, especially Jeanne, Peter, and Amy, are dedicated about this township; from seeing them help struggling businesses to implementing infrastructure that helps businesses become more accessible and attractive, I’ve seen their passion for the community help drive them to succeed, sometimes fail, and succeed again.
I can see their passion through HPED’s new office. During my internship, I helped Jeanne and Amy move into the new HPED office. Although some of my afternoons have been helping to move furniture and cleaning the space, I don’t think of this as a waste of time – I see it as a new growth for HPED and an acknowledgment of the progress this small, but hardworking organization.