The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education will present the 2019 Henry Meigs Environmental Leadership Award, its highest honor, to Mary Jane Stretch and Leah Stallings, the mother-daughter co-founders of the Aark Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center in Chalfont.
Together this duo possess more than 70 years of experience healing injured, sick and orphaned animals.
Founded 40 years ago, the Aark is the largest, first, and one of the few wildlife clinics in the Delaware Valley, serving more than 5,000 animals annually.
“We are thrilled to not only be honoring Mary Jane and Leah,” said Mike Weilbacher, the Schuylkill Center’s executive director, “but recognizing the importance of wildlife rehabilitation to our core mission. These two leaders are the first wildlife rehabilitators to win the award, and the honor is overdue.”
After being presented the award, Stallings, Rebecca Michelin, director of the Schuylkill Center’s Wildlife Clinic, and Grid magazine’s “Urban Naturalist” columnist Bernard Brown, will answer questions about navigating and improving the complex relationship between people and urban wildlife, covering everything from coexisting with coyotes in the city to how we can assist songbirds in their migrations. A reception immediately follows the town meeting.
The Henry Meigs Environmental Leadership Award has recognized outstanding environmental leadership in the Philadelphia region over the last 14 years. Among the recipients are former Philly mayor and Gov. Ed Rendell, city managing director Mike DeBerardinis, botanist Ann Fowler Rhoads, nature center founder Carole Williams-Green, and Manayunk Development Corporation founder Kay Sykora.
The award is named for Henry Meigs, one of the center’s founders and its longest-serving trustee.
Residing on Spring Lane on the Center’s western flank, Meigs worked with the National Audubon Society to study its site as a possible urban nature center. When concluding that it was possible, Meigs worked tirelessly alongside founding executive director Dick James to make it happen, and stayed on the center’s board from its 1965 inception until his death in 2005, a remarkable 40-year run that will never be equaled. His son, sculptor Binney Meigs, will help present the award.
Mary Jane Stretch has been practicing wildlife rehabilitation since the late 1960s, and was among the first group of Pennsylvanians to receive a rehabilitation license from the state’s Game Commission when the state created the license. After practicing in her home, she founded the Aark Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center in Chalfont in 1979, one of the first and largest such centers in the state. Her daughter Leah Stallings grew up rehabbing animals with her mother, and became the Aark’s second director in 2008. Between the two, they possess more than 70 years of experience in rehabilitating creatures from injured birds of prey to abandoned baby mammals, and many of their interns and staff have gone on to successful careers at other clinics including the Schuylkill Center.
The Schuylkill Center was founded in 1965 as Philadelphia’s first environmental education center. Its 340 acres of fields and forests serve as a living laboratory to foster appreciation, deepen understanding, and encourage stewardship of the environment.
The 2019 Meigs Award presentation and town meeting will be held Thursday, Nov. 7, 7-9 p.m., at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, 8480 Hagy’s Mill Road in Philadelphia.
Admission is Free