A Message from Eileen Borland, CFET Board Member

At about the age of four or five, I remember sitting at the edge of my father’s flower and vegetable garden on one of the rare sunny Fall days in Pittsburgh, watching him take a dried flower in his hand and gently rubbing it to separate the petals from the seeds. As he softly blew into his hand, most of the pieces of the dead flower would go airborne leaving behind only the seeds to be put into his already labeled jars, the process of savings seeds that would supply not only our beautiful flowers but also much of our fresh food for the following year. Sustainability…..a “process” that was familiar, but a word that was foreign to me at that time, but now is part of my every day vocabulary.
My father was born on a farm in the beautiful foothills of the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland (a place so beautiful it is often compared to what Heaven might look like) and he had a farmer’s knowledge of how valuable this year’s recovered seeds were. He also knew while growing up, that being the ninth child (fifth male), that he would not be the farmer of the family’s land and so he prepared himself, through an insatiable love of learning, for a life that would take him far from his beloved Ireland and the family he cherished.
Unlike my father’s farm in the foothills of Heaven, the garden where I would often sit watching him plant or weed or harvest was instead in the city that had the dubious honor of being called the #1 Dirtiest City in this country, aka the Smoky City and aka the Steel City. Pittsburgh. I will get back to Pittsburgh later, not because I like to talk about dirt, but rather because I like to talk about MIRACLES.
My name is Eileen Byrne Borland. I am a board member of CfET and along with Susan Cedrone, Mark Doorley, Michael Doyle, Cathy Fox and Cathy Nevins, I am also one of the founders of The Center for Environmental Transformation. If you have been reading this newsletter and/or are familiar with our website, you may know about our beginnings. If not, here is a quick mini history.
In 2005, Sacred Heart Church held a Synod to answer the question, “What must Sacred Heart Church do over the next decade to be viable”? And one of the follow-up questions was, “Where would you like to be involved”? The 250 people who attended had almost as many ideas as there were people. The answers were sorted and resorted until three dominant areas of concern stood out, 1) A higher level of involvement in the Camden Community; 2) Programs to meet the needs the local Youth and, 3) A deeper commitment to thinking globally while acting locally in regard to the Environment.
An after-Synod follow-up dinner meeting was planned, at which about half the number from the original Synod attended, or roughly 125 participants. Three people were selected to each speak about one of the areas of interest, after which the audience was asked to select the area that they might want to participate in further. Mark Doorley spoke to the Environmental issues and when the environmental group met for Q&As, of the 125 people in total attendance for the After-Synod dinner, forty came to the environmental follow-up discussion. At that discussion, a date was set for an environmental group to form and by the time the first meeting of that group was held, there were only twenty people in attendance, but they were twenty very enthusiastic people. For a while, we met just to try to narrow down the huge category of “environment” into something tangible where we felt that the time and effort and financial support that we were willing to put forth would result in making a difference to the next generation and most specifically to the future of the people of South Camden. Remediation was needed to correct the environmental injustice of the damaged, polluted, land left behind by the corporations who had taken their spoils and left the City when the ship building of the war years slowed to a trickle.
Over the next two years, our group met monthly. Mark Doorley’s natural leadership abilities had us choose him to take the group to the next level. Michael Doyle’s instinctive visionary abilities had us clearly pinpoint what that next step would be. Many people for various reasons moved on. However, just as many others came on board. Of the 125 After-Synod participants who started the journey that first night, the six people mentioned earlier who had attended literally every meeting from the beginning, became the founding members who took the CfET through its incorporation process, with Mark Doorley as the first President, Susan Cedrone as VP, Cathy Fox as Secretary (who also worked on the interior design of our Retreat Center), Eileen Byrne Borland as Treasurer. Cathy Nevins was primary curriculum designer and spearheaded our fund-raising. She, along with Michael Doyle (whose contributions would be an entire article, but suffice it to say that his contributions of the sales of his book and videos to CfET kept us solvent until we could develop other means of bringing in income) were the executives at large.
To be perfectly honest, I love the sound of saying that I am one of the Founders of the Center for Environmental Transformation. It is so “Margaret Mead-ish”. You know, “Never doubt that a small group of committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has”. I learned in my home town of Pittsburgh, where as a little girl I could often not see across the street because of the smoke and smog, that miracles happen and all things are possible. I believe in miracles!! This year, 2015, Pittsburgh has once again been chosen as The Most Livable City in the Country by at least two magazines, i.e. Forbes and The Economist. Conde Nast Traveler has named Pittsburgh as one of the “Top 15 Places in the world to go to in 2015”. Another magazine recently wrote about Pittsburgh, “Three Rivers. One reinvented City. On all counts, the Steel City’s TRANSFORMATION over the past quarter century qualifies as REVOLUTIONARY”. As I said, I believe in miracles. But here is the secret behind the glamour of being a founder of an organization like the Center for Environmental Transformation and behind the revolution that is my home town of Pittsburgh…..behind every miracle is the undying belief that all things are possible and a willingness to give your all to manifest that miracle through hard work.
When we started CfET, we worked (along with a host of volunteers) at every retreat. We hauled trash from what is now The Center for over a year. We scrapped, sanded, washed and painted walls. We swept, vacuumed, and polished floors (all very glamorous). And most importantly, we added new people to our Board, who brought with them fresh new ideas. And also, in recent times, we hired a new Farmer-Educator and our very first Executive Director to add to our growing group of employees , all of whom are dedicated to make you and all the people from our Community of Waterfront South feel welcome at CfET. Come join us. Plant a vegetable or flower at our farm. Get your hands dirty in our Camden soil. Help create the miracles that will teach the next generation to cherish our Mother Earth!! With your help and hard work, everything is possible, who knows, maybe even reversing climate change.