This past weekend, in connection with the Annual Meeting of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (“ACREL”), about 25 ACREL lawyers and spouses spent an afternoon digging weeds and mulching beds in the Fair Hill area of Philadelphia.  Fair Hill, one of the most blighted low-income areas in Philadelphia, is centered by the 300 year old Fair Hill Quaker Burial Ground, which was built on land originally given by William Penn to the Quakers for a meeting house and burial ground.  Quaker burial grounds are different than other cemeteries, as all of the headstones are the same design, small and unimposing, echoing the Quaker beliefs in humility, modesty and reverence.  Many of the people buried there were also supporters of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, and it is a National Historic Site on the Underground Railroad Network.

By the early 1990′s, the cemetery had fallen into neglect and disrepair, and was so overgrown, it was hard to see 10 feet beyond the gates due to the overgrown weeds and grasses and trash.  In 1993, a group of Quakers and community leaders purchased the burial ground and started restoring it.  Since the burial ground is central to the neighborhood, restoration has also helped restore some vibrancy to the area, encouraging growth, beautification and pride in the neighborhood.  New low-income housing has been built immediately across the street from the entrance to Fair Hill Burial Ground, as well as a new elementary school down the street.  Additional information and pictures of Fair Hill Burial Ground can be found at the organization’s website,, which welcomes visits and

donations from everyone.

The ACREL members and their spouses met Fair Hill volunteers on Friday afternoon to help weed and mulch flower beds at the Potter-Thomas Elementary School and the low-income housing complex.   At the elementary school, the flower beds, originally put in with support and labor donated by the Philadelphia Eagles football team, had been neglected and become overgrown.  Using shovels, hoes, and trowels, and getting down in the dirt, fifteen of us pulled weeks, trimmed perennials, picked up trash, and mulched the beds, restoring them to their original beauty.  The school principal came out and was so enthusiastic about all the hard work we had put in and was so pleased and thankful to have the beds looking so nice again.  At the housing complex, the rest of the ACREL volunteers cleaned up and mulched the landscaping, and residents can now enjoy the beauty that  well-tended landscaping adds to their homes.

All of us left the Fair Hill neighborhood with a better understanding of how much good a little work can do for a neighborhood.  And hopefully, the residents of the Fair Hill neighborhood will feel that people, even strangers from out of town, really do care about them.

Janice Carpi is National Underwriting Counsel for GRS Group Title Services.