Margie Winters: Connecting through Service

Kathy Smith
Margie Winters is a new kid on the block. As Shipley’s Service Learning Coordinator, she’s gotten to experience the welcoming draw of the Shipley community. “The colleagues, parents and kids have been so helpful orienting me,” she says. “I have felt such a warm welcome.”
Margie comes to Shipley with considerable experience. She has been the service learning coordinator for Project HOME, whose mission it is to empower people to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Margie is also a founding member of Sanctuary Farm Phila, an urban farm focused on teaching community members about gardening, wellness, and nutrition. “I believe we need to help communities connect within themselves and with each other. We only know what we know. When we reach out to communities, particularly on the margins, we learn a lot about their lives and their priorities. School service,” she says, “helps student do that in a thoughtful and reflective way.”
Margie’s life-long commitment to service was borne out of her own in-school experience. “My college campus minister took us to the boarding homes in center city Philadelphia. The boarding homes were row houses, similar to ones where I lived, but when you went inside, you saw men and women living in a single room who were mentally ill, who were without a lot of care, and who were very isolated. It just broke my heart.”
Margie has worked with the homeless community in various ways throughout her career. Currently, she sits on the board of Sanctuary Farm, an urban farm envisioned by her partner, Andrea Vettori. The farm’s aim is to create a community that works together to sustainably grow organic produce while providing opportunities to improve emotional and physical well-being, provide transitional employment, and support the local community through building healthy relationships. In Margie’s words, “Sanctuary Farm is an urban working farm, not a community garden. The purpose of the farm is to create a space of sanctuary where you can come and sit and enjoy the beauty of a garden, a place that will provide nourishing produce for the health and well-being of the community, and a place that will hire people who have experienced homelessness. We also do a lot of nutrition education.”
Shipley ninth-graders have already been involved with Sanctuary Farm. “They were troopers,” Margie chuckles. “We had gotten a huge delivery of mulch that the truck put on the side of the road that day. The students spread the mulch—it was a lot of work and the students were GREAT.”
Margie would like to see Shipley students become even more involved in the farm over time. It's all a part of finding and creating the service thread that connects all divisions of the School. “How do we teach our students to truly be compassionate participants in the world and in their communities,” she asks, “and how do we teach them systematically?”
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.