Originally published 3/3/2017 at 06:00a.m., updated 3/2/2017 at 04:23p.m.
For more than 20 years, local nonprofit Civic Works has worked to strengthen Baltimore’s communities through education, skills development and community service. Lately, the organization
has partnered with Park Heights Renaissance to create a green space for children who attend school nearby.
Last March, former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the city was seeking a master developer to redevelop at least 49-acres in the Park Heights community, a diverse 1,200-acre area that includes 12 neighborhoods, schools and recreational assets, two commercial districts, Sinai Hospital and Pimlico Racetrack.
Much of the work is taking place along Pimlico Road and Thorndale Avenue by AmeriCorps members, community residents, local artists and volunteer groups who work to create and maintain
thriving community spaces.
“Civic Works’ Community Lot Team got started on the revitalization work in Park Heights around June of 2016, after being approached by the Baltimore Office of Sustainability,” said Jenny Katz,
Civic Works’ Lot Team director.
On Saturday, March 25, Civic Works and others will participate in a community planting day, keeping in line with Civic Works’ Community Lot Team’s mission to transform vacant and abandoned lots in Baltimore City into community gardens and green spaces. Already, four garden spaces and art by local artist Adam Stab have also been installed.
The work is being done with the help of AmeriCorps members, community residents, local artists and volunteer groups who work to create and maintain thriving community spaces.
Additionally, Civic Works is helping to revitalize the 4700 block of the Park Heights corridor where vacant houses once stood.
“Instead of open dirt with nothing else, there’s been grass seeds planted and shrubs and a few trees already,” said AmeriCorps worker and longtime Park Heights resident Tony Dickens. “On the one side, we’ve put in a stone patio area where we will have some benches to sit and there will be some art work.”
“The Baltimore Office of Sustainability tapped Civic Works to help beautify the block once the houses were torn down,” Katz said. “This involved creating four separate garden areas, installing
stone patios shaped like flowers, and planting shrubs and other greenery. This block will serve as an illustration of what's possible for Park Heights. It will serve as a model for the revitalization of more blocks to come.”
The recipient of such honors like the Standards for Excellence designation by the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations and being named an innovative AmeriCorps program
by Innovations in Civic Participation, Civic Works has proven to be an effective organization lauded for doing a phenomenal job in serving local youth in need of a Corps experience and completing project work deemed invaluable to the surrounding communities.
The nonprofit provides Baltimore based job training that prepares program participants for employment, having placed 600 individuals in jobs, and providing 4,000 AmeriCorps members with service opportunities.
Civic Works also has helped to create a more sustainable, economically viable and environmentally responsible agriculture sector in Baltimore by growing 60,000 pounds of fresh produce and planting approximately 25,000 trees.
“On a fundamental level, neighborhood greening can help build property value and create a safe and clean space for children to play,” Katz said
The community work is vital for homeowners and other residents, allowing for a renewed sense of pride, Dickens said.
A lot of the homes that are falling apart [and] dilapidated in the area are eyesores. At the very least this is a morale booster for the neighborhood because we won’t be seeing so much of
the abandoned structures anymore,” said Dickens, who hopes to attract more local volunteers.
“I’m pushing for our residents who live here to join in and get involved,” he said. “If they do, if they put in their sweat and hard work then they’ll probably be the ones who won’t hesitate to
speak up if someone comes in and tries to destroy this. They’ll be like me, grateful to Civic Works for coming in here, stepping up and contributing to our neighborhood.”
For more information about Civic Works, to volunteer or make a donation, visit: www.civicworks.com