Elizabeth Waring described how life will be for her now that her “sister friend” Winnie Harris, a well-known community leader, was found shot to death in her West Philadelphia home last week.
“Winnie was just such a wonderful person,” Waring said on Friday by phone. “She was a torch, a light. I feel like her light has been dimmed.”
Harris was the acting executive director and volunteer coordinator for UC Green, an organization that empowers environmental stewardship. A candlelight vigil was held on Saturday for Harris, whose funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at Christ Community Church of Philadelphia, 4017 Chestnut St.
Waring knew Harris for nearly 30 years. The two met at neighborhood meetings and maintained a longtime friendship.
“It just bothers me that she gave so much of herself and she had her light dimmed, and I don’t understand why,” Waring said. “Her thing was to make Philadelphia one of the greenest cities in America.”
Thanks to Harris, Saundra Fulwood said the property value of her home went up after Harris came into her neighborhood and helped the community plant trees on the 4900 block of Osage Avenue.
“I couldn’t understand why the houses in the 4800 block were worth more than the ones on our block,” Fulwood recalled of the home she purchased in 1996. “We were told to go see Winnie Harris at UC Green. She helped us plant 17 trees. The property values came up and in the springtime it was so beautiful. It was all because of Winnie.”
Friends of Harris said she loved to shop and was a member of many greening organizations, often credited with getting young people involved in gardening. Her Holly Street Neighbors Community Garden is located at 321-323 N. Holly St., and they plan to kept her memory alive by collectively maintaining it.
“Winnie was just a jewel,” said Paulette Adams, director of community development for City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. “Winnie was just passionate about life in general whether it grew from the ground or sustained by what grew up off the ground.”
Cass Green, the manager of community outreach and partnerships for People’s Emergency Center, said she can still hear Harris’ voice and see her face.
“She lived in the community that she worked in and she was committed to the work that she did,” Green said. “It feels like a tree got cut down.”