Penn Wood Elementary School's Legacy Garden Dedication Ceremony
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Sokolowski (left,) Barry Burkholder, Lisa McGonagle, Dr. Gacomis, Superintendent Dr. Jim Scanlon
Thanks to the hard work and generosity of parent volunteers and Malvern-based Burkholder Landscape, the dream of the Penn Wood Legacy Garden is now a reality. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on May 17, 2018, to officially mark the opening of the garden.
Parent Lisa McGonagle spearheaded the project when she was head of the Penn Wood Beautification Committee. Her children attended the school.
"Mrs. McGonagle had a dream that this beautiful courtyard that we dedicate this evening will exist long into the future to be enjoyed by Penn Wood students, staff, and families every year for many years to come," said Penn Wood principal Dr. Ellen Gacomis.
The space, which is located just off of the school's library and cafeteria, is used as an outdoor classroom and a place for students to eat lunch and relax. While it was always accessible, it was not enclosed. When renovations were done at the school several years ago, the addition of a hallway surrounded the courtyard making it a safe, usable space for students.
The idea to fix up the courtyard came to McGonagle after spending time volunteering at the school.
"There were a few picnic tables in the courtyard at the time, but the more I was there I realized that the space was undervalued and underutilized," said McGonagle.
In 2017, McGonagle teamed up with 3rd-grade teacher Josh Williams who also felt the space could be transformed for the benefit of the students. They quickly realized that they needed the help of a professional landscaping company and reached out to Barry Burkholder, co-owner of Burkholder Landscape.
"He said yes to the project, right away," said McGonagle. "He was really excited to help out."
After weeks of planning and meetings, plans for the courtyard were presented to and approved by Penn Wood's Home & School Association (HSA).
Money was budgeted for the project through the HSA, but there was a shortfall. Mr. Burkholder generously donated the difference.
"My kids went to Penn Wood, " said Burkholder. "It's a great school. I feel it's really important to give back. It feels great to be part of a legacy - something that all the students will be able to enjoy for years to come."
The garden is large enough to hold an entire grade level at a time and has been a welcomed addition to the school. A boulder with a dedication plaque sits nestled in the garden with the words "Our Penn Wood garden begins with tiny seeds that bloom into bold flowers; each one unique, each one important." The same words could be applied to each student that graces the Penn Wood community.