A Letter from UTC’s Board Chair:
The Urban Tree Connection Board of Directors is proud and excited to announce Noelle Warford as the new Executive Director! Noelle takes this position after the retirement of Skip Wiener, our beloved founding Director, who served an almost 30-year tenure. Noelle has been working with UTC since April 2015 as the Programs Director. In this position, she led substantial advancements, particularly in her leadership of the program staff, which increased cohesion and created a clear, shared vision for their work.
Noelle Warford was born and raised on the south-side of Youngstown, Ohio in a predominately Black and working class community. As the first member of her family to attend a four-year university, Noelle received her B.A. in Womens and Black Studies from Denison University. Through her studies at Denison University and abroad in Kingston, Jamaica, Noelle developed an analysis of structural inequities that drives her work and life. In 2007, Noelle moved to Philadelphia to obtain her Masters in Social Work degree (MSW) from the University of Pennsylvania and became licensed (LSW) in 2009. Since then, Noelle has worked at Congreso de Latinos and Harcum College, and is an active Board Member of Norris Square Neighborhood Project. Over the past year, Noelle has become very involved in Soil Generation (SG), a coalition of individual growers, food justice advocates, and farming community organizations that are focused on racial and economic justice. Noelle chairs the Policy Committee and helped prepare members, growers, and urban agriculture supporters to testify at recent City Council hearings.
When asked about her vision for the future of Urban Tree Connection, Noelle says, “In Haddington and through the work of UTC, we are trying to build a sustainable community that is identifying and meeting their own collective needs through an ecological and social justice lens. We find ourselves here, at this special moment in history, with an urgency to change our relationship to the earth and with one another. We cannot afford to put our individual gains and interests before the collective. We must rebuild and reinforce the power of communities, particularly through reclamation of land, which directly benefits the health of the whole community. We must focus on human development and dignity that fosters individual and collective agency, with the aim of creating equitable and cooperative community.”
Earlier this year, the UTC community bid a fond farewell to Skip Wiener, UTC’s Founder and Executive Director, as he departed for retirement. Since founding UTC in 1989, Skip guided the organization with great vision, a huge heart, fierce passion, and an ever-present sense of humor. Nowhere is Skip’s impact more evident than in West Philly’s Haddington community, the focus of UTC’s efforts since 1997. UTC’s work in Haddington began with residents’ requests to clean up vacant land and create green spaces. This later expanded to include food-producing community gardens, a scattered site urban farm, robust programming for children, teens, and adults, and a vibrant civic organization, the Neighborhood Foods Cooperative. When asked about the selection of Noelle as the incoming Executive Director for UTC, Skip says, “When Noelle came to UTC, she immersed herself in the community, developing relationships with block captains, neighborhood residents, and the kids of Haddington. She chose UTC because of its historic commitment to the neighborhood, and has worked hard to broaden and deepen those commitments. We had always hoped to hire from within for my replacement, and I am so pleased that Noelle is taking the reins.”
Noelle is committed to enriching Skip’s legacy and expanding the mission of UTC by building more collaborative partnerships with local community-based organizations that have similar missions and frameworks. These relationships will create mutually beneficial opportunities to build on each other’s collective strengths and serve more communities. Noelle hopes her time in leadership at UTC increases land security and community self-determination for Haddington residents, creating healthier, more empowered neighborhoods, and building sustainable food systems throughout Philadelphia.
The Board warmly welcomes Noelle Warford and with her leadership, we look forward to ensuring UTC continues to be a vital part of the Haddington community!
The next few months are going to be busy, but we urge you to reach out and join us in welcoming Noelle as the new Executive Director.
Crystal Hardie Langston
UTC Board Chair