Barra Foundation Award Press Release







Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory Wins 2018-2019 Barra Award for Exemplary Nonprofits in the Greater Philadelphia Region

December 5, 2017 – Wayne, PA — The Barra Foundation has announced that Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory (PWBF) is a recipient of a 2018-2019 Barra Award. PWBF is among 43 exceptional nonprofit organizations in the Greater Philadelphia region that will each receive $50,000 in grant funding. Barra Awardees are nominated by their peers in the social sector and are then invited to submit an application to the Foundation. The application questions focus on the organization’s leadership, performance and adaptability.

“Our Board, staff and students all want to thank our anonymous Barra Award nominee and the Board of the Barra Foundation for believing in our work and for spearheading innovative approaches to philanthropy that help catalyze the non-profit sector in Philadelphia”.  –Brett Hart, Executive Director

In line with the Foundation’s mission to invest in innovation in the social sector, the Barra Awards provide unrestricted funding and introduce awardees to a diverse network of social sector leaders. “Without unrestricted capital, nonprofits have little margin for error or appetite for innovation. Through the Barra Awards we hope to provide organizations with some financial breathing room and their leaders with opportunities to learn from their peers—a diverse and inspiring network of entrepreneurial thinkers from across the nonprofit sector,” said Kristina Wahl, president of The Barra Foundation.

Since its 2013 inception, the Barra Awards has granted more than $6 million to area nonprofits. Awardees represent a range of nonprofits from the Arts and Culture, Education, and Health and Human Services sectors in the Greater Philadelphia region.

A full list of the 2018-2019 Barra Award winners is available here.

To learn more about the Barra Awards program, click here.

About The Barra Foundation

The Barra Foundation invests in innovation to inspire change that strengthens communities in the Greater Philadelphia region. Through its Catalyst Fund and Barra Awards, the Foundation provides approximately $4 million in annual grants that are focused on supporting innovation in and across the fields of Arts & Culture, Education, Health and Human Services.

About the Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory

Using the maritime arts and environmental sciences as a framework, Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory provides strength-based, trauma-informed OST educational experiences (academic, 21st-century, and social emotional) for youth ages 12-21 in the Kensington, Port Richmond and Frankford sections of Philadelphia.



June River

Two bright clear days. Two groups of Riverguides. An audience of community members. Three rowboats in the fleet, a new one ready for launch, and a busy, welcoming river. On June 14th and 15th, all our work over the past months practicing rowing, exploring the river, and learning about different parts of its ecosystem all came down to those elements. This was the biggest challenge we gave the Riverguides this whole year, their culminating event: take these great days, the boats, the river, and all together as a team provide a meaningful experience for an audience out on the river.

Over the course of two days, nearly 60 people experienced the Delaware River from a rowboat led by the Riverguides. They rocked in gentle waves and gripped oars for the first time to try their hands (and arms and core!) at rowing. They dragged nets in the water, and through microscopes saw the whole plankton ecosystem that supports life in the river. For the first time, they saw in the same water samples the microplastic pollution next to the living plankton, a reminder that humans influence and change the Delaware River at even the smallest levels – not always for the better. Many who were unaware that freshwater mussels even existed now held their shells and living examples as evidence, learning how these animals help filter pollutants and sediment out of the water to keep it clean. Our passengers remarked how new this was for them and how it changed their perspective of the river. In a sense, they all began to see the Delaware River the way the Riverguides already see it and know it to be: a valuable place with lots of life and beauty, a place for adventure, and environment that needs to be cleaned and protected.

Ayana Sanchez as coxswain at the stern (back) with Alex Garcia rowing in the bow (front) taking out some young people from Achieving Independence Center in Philadelphia


Orquidea Martinez showing visitors how to test the quality of the water they collected on their river excursion


Jason Herndon at the stern as the coxswain leading a boat full of people. They’re about to put a net in the water and begin sampling for microplastics.


Orquidea Martinez helping some visitors look through a microscope to see what we found in one of our net tows that day.


Coxswain Casey Harkins and rower Jason Herndon in a nearly full boat ready to leave the dock!

May’s New Adventures and Rewards


This May is a busy one for the Riverguides, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. With the public docks and boat-launches now open for the season, we are back on the river! Each day, we’re getting more familiar with the boats and the different conditions the river can throw at us. We’ve recently been practicing rowing against currents, building our teamwork skills for rowing all together, and re-learning our boat-handling skills. By the end of May, we expect to be routinely taking samples from the river and collecting data on all of them for our plastic pollution investigations.

This weekend the Riverguides went for a weekend-long kayaking and camping trip with the Poconos Environmental Education Center in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area! There, they got to learn about a completely different and unfamiliar section of the same Delaware River, and compare it to the one they already know.

Finally, we have a giant shout out to the 4 winners of Tookany-Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership’s (TTF) annual Youth Champions Award ­­– our very own Casey Harkins, Julisa Pantojas, Cashmere Williams, and Jason Herndon! Casey, Cashmere, and Jason all contributed to PWBF’s work with TTF teaching the public about stormwater management issues in Philadelphia, and helped Frankford High School establish a compost on school grounds to minimize food trash going into the school’s waste stream. Julisa is being honored for her enthusiastic and creative contributions to PWBF’s research into plastic pollution in the Delaware River watershed. At one of our workshops she displayed such a deep knowledge about how plastic pollution enters the Delaware River and how it can affect that ecosystem that her audiences were inspired to change their own behavior and asked how they could help us in our work. Great job, all – people really do notice your work and are inspired by it!

TTF’s Youth Champions Award winners Casey, Julisa, Cashmere, and Jason. (Photo credit: Emilie Wetzel, TTF)