Dr. Janet and John Haas Announce $1 Million Gift to Parks for People-Philadelphia
John and Janet Haas announced today they will donate $1 million over the next four years to The Trust for Public Land to establish the "Haas Challenge" to accelerate the national conservation organization's initiative to create community-designed green play spaces in schoolyards and recreation centers in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia.
"The Trust for Public Land believes every child needs a nearby place to play outside, and we agree," said Dr. Haas. "This organization has successfully built parks and improved playgrounds in other cities, and we are looking forward to helping them do the same in Philadelphia."
Dr. Haas, a graduate of Drexel University School of Medicine, said, "When I was training to become a doctor, the days and nights were long. It often seemed like I never was in nature, as if my feet never left concrete or brick. I know that access to nature and softness underfoot would have renewed me, and I hope this gift can provide a similar opportunity for children in this city."
Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land, said, "We are very grateful to Dr. Haas and her husband for this enormously generous gift. We are excited about our new program in Philadelphia, and the generosity of visionary leaders like Janet and John Haas will help us realize our goal of providing more playgrounds and green spaces for Philadelphia's children.
"This is a major step forward for the City of Philadelphia's partnership with The Trust for Public Land," said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. "Making Philadelphia the greenest city in America will require a public-private partnership and it is wonderful to see the Haas family challenging us all to do more for our city's children. Their private investment and that of others will substantially leverage the public investments being made to green our city's recreation centers and schoolyards."
The gift and matching funds will support Philadelphia's innovative Green 2015 Plan. A partnership between The Trust for Public Land, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the School District of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Water Department was announced May 10 by Mayor Michael A. Nutter. The partnership will significantly expand green space, including improvements to as many as 10 school yards and recreation centers over the next several years.
Dr. Haas, who attended the opening, noted that "each park will be unique. Each will be designed by its community to meet neighborhood green space needs—for playgrounds, picnic groves, fitness equipment, athletic courts and fields, walking paths, gardening beds, and quiet spaces. Urban oases will spring from shattered concrete and run-down structures, and native trees, shrubs and grasses will literally transform bare schoolyards and acres of asphalt."
The Haas' gift was made through the Otto Haas Charitable Trust, which is named in honor of John O. Haas' grandfather, the co-founder of Rohm & Haas. It is a challenge gift over the next four years, which means The Trust for Public Land will receive $250,000 per year, as long as it raises $250,000 in matching funds each year from other sources.
Dr. Haas is also a member of the Corporation and chair of the Board of Directors of the William Penn Foundation. John Haas is a former member of the Corporation of the William Penn Foundation, which was founded by his grandparents, Otto & Phoebe Haas.
The William Penn Foundation was one of the original supporters of the planning and public engagement effort to draft the Green2015 Action Plan and is now providing significant resources for the pilot project.
The Trust for Public Land is the nation's leading non-profit organization in creating parks and playgrounds in cities across the country, and is also the nation's leader in helping local communities create funding for parks and conservation. Since it was founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land has completed more than 5,200 conservation projects in 47 states.