(OROSW Garden Club Garden, right next to Bon Secours of Maryland Foundation at Fulton and Fayette Streets)
The Clean and Green team is a part of Bon Secours of Maryland Foundation (soon to be Bon Secours Civil Works!) located in Franklin Square in Southwest Baltimore. At the corner of Fayette and Fulton, Bon Secours' Foundation Center is situated in the heart of West and Southwest Baltimore - a strategic place to reach out and help the communities that have often been left behind where other parts of the city have received attention.
Clean and Green is a part of Bon Secours' Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Department. It is a program designed to teach green job development skills as well as provide free cleanup and beautification services to West Baltimore neighborhoods. The Clean and Green team is made up of a handful of adults that are hired for on-the-job training in green landscaping. They have six months to learn how to use the tools and go out into the field and clean lots, plant trees, pick up trash, weed, etc. As part of their training each individual gives at least three presentations about some aspect of green landscaping that he or she has learned while working for Clean and Green. Clean and Green teaches people valuable job development skills as well as necessary services to the Southwest Baltimore neighborhoods they work in.
During the summer, youth employees join the Clean and Green team for a period of six weeks. The youth work alongside their adult counterparts, learning about green landscaping and what it means to give back to their communities. Today was the Clean and Green student appreciation event marking the end of their six week work commitment. Each of the five students briefly presented what he or she learned during their six weeks to the Bon Secours Foundation Center staff. They expressed an array of knowledge they had acquired about landscaping, as well as their emotional reactions to the work they were doing.
Did you know that to kill the weeds coming through the cracks in the sidewalk you must pull the weed out from the root and then spray the spot with a solution of salt and vinegar? Or, did you know that in West Baltimore the hardiness zone is 7-8, and that you should plant Native plants according to this hardiness zone? Did you know there are alternative, environmentally safe cleaning products that you can make with ingredients you can find in your own kitchen? Well, they did!
One student expressed that he was surprised at how much effect just a few hours of work can do. Another said that he was transformed by the experience and does not feel as shy. The girl in the group said she had to get used to the jokes made by all the boys - but that by the end of the experience they were all really close.
Tony Goff, the Bon Secours staff member in charge of the Clean and Green team, congratulated the students on their work and brought to everyone's attention the effect the young people had on the community. He mentioned the daily praise and thanks the Clean and Green team received from residents witnessing the work they were doing. He explained that sometimes, they were helping the community without even realizing it. The group had be approached a few times by drug dealers who emptied the contents of their trash bags to look for a particular piece of trash the C&G team had picked up that was in fact the stash spot for drugs. Because in some areas there is so much trash on the street, a stray potato chip bag is a perfect spot to hide drugs where they will not be seen, and without even knowing it the Clean and Green team would throw these away with all the other trash. As time went on, Tony said when the Clean and Green team approached an area where drug dealing was occurring, the dealers would pick up their operation and take it somewhere else.
Urban greening is not just about growing plants or turning pavement into grass. It is a movement, it is an effect, it is something that changes people and areas. Baltimore's burgeoning greening movement is a movement towards something very positive for each community that participates and for the city as a whole. Let's move towards a healthier, safer, cleaner, greener city!
Anna, Power in Dirt