What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation? (400 words or fewer) All the gardens of the Bronx Land Trust and the gardens of her sister trust, Manhattan Land Trust, some more than 20 years old at the time, were slated for sale by t he city in 1999 that would have lead to their certain demolition. The gardens were saved through purchase and then borough based land trusts were created by the gardeners to manage the gardens. The trusts were incorporated and each hired a director in 2005. A year later, in order serve the gardens and strengthen the garden groups, a shared community organizer was hired. She began her work at Belmont garden in Bronx, a garden which had basically been abandoned. She began by cleaning the garden with help from an environmental club of students from a neighborhood school. As they worked neighborhood folk came out to help and were interested in bringing back the space for their community; this in turn lead to more partners and support for this garden. This was the defining moment. Each trust and the city as a whole have struggling gardens. This was the first time we had had been able to clean up the space and so engage the residents that when the volunteers and dumpster left a garden group was in tack and ready to take on the challenges of a running a community garden.
The next garden project, Sherman Avenue was an extremely difficult situation. For several years, a family had taken over the garden monopolizing the space to the total exclusion of the neighborhood. With the support from the board, our organizer began as she had done at Belmont with volunteer cleanups. We were able to engage more partners, a necessity as the garden was in terrible disrepair. This garden, once an eyesore is now a thriving active garden with more than25 members, open every day and a source of true neighborhood pride.
Since the revitalization of Sherman we have had successful projects at Davidson Garden in the Bronx and Papo’s in Manhattan. Grant Avenue will be the next project. I think it important to mention that during this time Bronx and Manhattan were involved in a strategic plan. Heeding the recommendation from the plan to increase efficiency and reduce costs, we formed a joint venture. We now share an executive director as well as an organizer and one office. The two trusts jointly support our organizing approach to strengthen garden groups in both boroughs. BLT and MLT remain separate and independent non-profit organizations to whom the gardens in our boroughs will be conveyed this year. When that occurs, the very gardeners that first sought to save their gardens will now own them.
Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.
We are very fortunate to have Catherine Wint as our community organizer. Not only is she a community gardener, she has a Master’s in Education and has extensive teaching experience ranging from an inner city public school serving children with behavioral difficulties to supervising interns in video and film editing to working at a K-12 arts education program. As a person of color and an immigrant, she is aware of the challenges faced by many of our gardeners and is respectful of their cultural and ethnic diversity and as well as their wide range of education and economic backgrounds. Through her patience, warmth and sense of humor, she easily engages gardeners.
When confronting with difficulties or conflicts she is able to listen and make suggestions that help resolve situations in a fair and equitable way. She is committed and dedicated to her job and is a pleasure to work with her.
Because of her many experiences, when she first went to Belmont Garden, she was able to recognize the need, reach out to community and enlist helpful partners. From this first effort, she developed a strategy to address struggling gardens that has made a wonderful difference in lives of so many in our gardening community.
How did you first hear about Changemakers?
If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company