Unsung benefactor: The Garden District Fund

by Barbara Olson
Posted 5/7/14

The Chestnut Hill Garden District Fund, with the help of many volunteers, keeps Germantown Avenue blooming beautiful. But CHGDF is not only about flowers.

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Unsung benefactor: The Garden District Fund


Try to guess the name of this important local organization:

Hint: The founder is Dottie Sheffield.

Hint: The answer is not Bird in Hand, An organization Dottie founded that has donated more than $1 million for the good of the Avenue.

Hint: The current president of 10 years is Emily Daeschler.

Hint: Bob Markowsk is the sole gardener.

Still stumped? Here's another hint: Initials are CHGDF.

In the good form of all Jeopardy answers, “Who is responsible for buying and planting the beautiful flowers on Germantown Avenue?”

Answer: CHGDF, the Chestnut Hill Garden District Fund, which, with the help of many volunteers keeps Germantown Avenue blooming beautiful. But CHGDF is not only about flowers. Here is a bit of a Chestnut Hill history lesson.

In 1998 Dottie and other civically minded people, put together a prestigious board and proceeded to write bylaws to become a nonprofit tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization. Carole Sheffield, Dottie's daughter-in-law, did all the legal heavy-lifting. The goal was to enhance the physical appearance of Chestnut Hill. All of us – residents and visitors – are the recipients of CHGDF activities. Below are some of their projects, most of which were quietly transformed before our eyes with no fanfare, just beauty.

  • The Chestnut Hill Baptist Church at the “Top of the Hill.” CHGDF planted the grounds (continual maintenance by the church), fixed the clock and installed outdoor lighting to highlight the beautiful white steeple.
  • War Memorial Park. CHGDF restored the monument's stonework, re-designed the park around the monument, provided a bench and sees to its up keep.
  • Meditation Park. CNGDF designed a plan, raised money for the masonry, laid a walkway platform, purchased three benches and a picnic table, removed doomed trees, planted new trees and hundreds of bulbs and day lilies with the help of the Chestnut Hill Garden Club.
  • Holiday Decorations. Funds are contributed to the Chestnut Hill Business Improvement District to help pay for hanging lights and greens to fill the barrels.
  • Outdoor Reading Garden at the Chestnut Hill library. Again, the CHGDF helped to support this project.
  • Cliff Park at the intersection of Cresheim Valley Road and Germantown Avenue. Beautification is underway currently.
  • And FLOWERS. Annually, the CHGDF pays for plantings in 80 whiskey barrels, 70 flower baskets on light posts and more than 30 window boxes from Mermaid Lane to Rex Avenue that make our mile stretch of Germantown Avenue a veritable parade route of color and beauty.

The efforts of CHGDF have been rewarded twice by the PHS, Philadelphia Horticultural Society, for “City Block” plantings. They recently won the PHS Community Greening Award, which recognizes those who plant and maintain public green spaces in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

But as always, it takes a village. CHGDF is supported by many volunteers – those who donate money and those who pick up a trowel or shovel and donate their time and energy. Chestnut Hill Garden Club assisted with plantings early on. Since 2007, the Random Garden Club has planted the barrels. Citizen volunteers of all ages help plant the baskets. Bob Markowski uses his creative genius to plant the window boxes.

And a note of support must be given to the Business Improvement District. Since 2000 it has contributed monies to help pay the salary of the gardener. (Other salary and benefits are paid by CHGDF.)

And finally, Peggy Miller and Kate O'Neil of the Business Association must be cited. They do the books, attend many meetings on CHGDF's behalf, print and send mailings and generally help in any way they are able.

As a note and thank you, listed are all the board members since inception: Dorothy Binswanger, Madeleine Burtcher, Carol Franklin, Marilyn Monaco, Quita Horan, Arthur W. Howe, John Levitties, Maud Littleton, Paul Meyer, Patter Peterson, Cameron Soroko, Bruce Robertson, Sr., Dottie Sheffield, John Herrick, Patricia Walsh, Emily Daeschler, Alice Lea Tasman, Peter Hedrick, Betty Lippincott, Amy Coes, Jeffrey Harbison, Esq., Sue Pringle, Jane Piotrowski, Starr Osborne, Fran O’Donnell, Ellen Goodwin, Susan Peck, Barsha Lloyd, Jennifer Arms, Jane Bonnenberger, Suzanne Duffy, Alexander Nalle, Barbara Olson, Rita Powell, Drew Becher.

For any of you who would like to show your support for the “greening and flowering” of Chestnut Hill, information is below.




Bronze Trowel……….....….$100

Golden Watering Can……$500

Platinum Wheelbarrow…$1,000

Bench naming opportunity at Cliff Park – $500

The Chestnut Hill Garden District Fund is a 501(C)3 organization. All contributions are tax deductible. Please make checks payable to Chestnut Hill Garden District Fund, 16 East Highland Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19118