Germantown: Community Garden Adds to Neighborhood’s Changing Dynamic

Al Robinson tends to his garden]

Residents of West Rockland Street, located between the 4800 blocks of Germantown Avenue and Green Street, have been working diligently to assure that the neighborhood is safe and functions as a tightly knit unit.

Four years ago, the neighborhood was in a state of discontent. Residents were detached and rarely communicated with one another. They were falling victim to the similar decline of the surrounding neighborhoods. In 2009, West Rockland Street was rejuvenated. Within a year’s time a new block committee, community events, block meetings and improvement projects were established.

Visible advancements to the neighborhood were occurring. The clean block initiative was implemented to mobilize a sustainable and secure environment.

The community garden is improving the quality of life in the neighborhood especially for the children. Ainé Doley, one of the block captains, assembled the neighborhood on June 2 for the second annual “Grow This Block” planting experiment. for “Grow This Block.”Over 20 households participated by planting flowers and vegetables in the garden.

Al Robinson planted yellow bell peppers in his garden.

Ada Pullett has lived on West Rockland Street for 40 years. She explained that she began to see the metamorphosis of the neighborhood through the community garden.

“The change started last year. Ainé and her sister [Emaleigh] grow a lot the plants that you see throughout the neighborhood,” Pullet said. “So we all decided that when summer came around again we were going to do something a bit different. We chose to do a vegetable and flower garden.”

The previous summer the neighborhood came together for a block beautification. Mayor Michael Nutter came to participate. Home Depot donated items and lent a helping hand. It was a celebration of the neighborhood and its renewed unity.

“We cooked food and set up tents. We had a fabulous time last year. We won prizes and were in the paper,” Pullet said.

The recent changes in the neighborhood have not only sparked awareness of cleanliness and sustainable living but also decreased criminal activity on the block. Minnie Plez, a resident for 41 years, described her relief in the decline of violence specifically among the children in the neighborhood.

“There have been a whole lot of changes over the years. Good. Bad. Coming back to good again,” Plez said. “The recent changes have cut down a lot the incidents among the kids. They were running around fighting one another now they playing with each other.”

Tareeq White sat on the jungle gym in the garden overlooking the neighborhood.

Illegal activities ran rampant throughout the neighborhood for years and things recently have taken a turn for the better. The adults have come together to syndicate a better future for the neighborhood and they have taken strides to the road of success.

“There used to be a good bit of fighting, breaking into people’s homes but now we don’t seem to have that problem since the neighbors have gotten together,” Plez said. “We’ve managed to get people from different blocks to come down and participate in the garden.”

Many of the residents have concerns that the children may get overshadowed in the recent changes. The children rarely partake in the gardening activities and with limited constructive activities in the area for them to participate in, residents fear this could lead to a resurgence of trouble.

To avoid future conflict among the children, the neighbors discussed implementing a youth program at their weekly meeting. The program would include the usual play street during the summer with the addition of bus trips and an art corner. Residents plan on enforcing the city’s curfew this summer.

Teaching the children about the importance of recycling and not littering is also a top priority on the neighborhood’s agenda. Residents feel that including the children in a variety of activities will assure their safety during the summer months. David Reeder, 13-year resident, voiced his opinion on the direction of the children.

Zaire Robinson was hanging out on the jungle gym.

“I would like to see more of the children participate instead of just running around,” Reeder said. “I would like to see them get together with some activity, start a band, a drill team would be nice too and showcase their talent.”

In addition to the gardening and the children, residents just want to see their neighbors participate and work together as a family. Since the block is so large with 46 three-story homes and over 50 children living in the neighborhood, it can be a difficult task to get everyone on the same page, but West Rockland Street has managed to accomplish its goals. Resident Al Robinson expressed his feelings toward West Rockland Street’s triumphs.

“Our block has always been organized,” Robinson said. “I would say the best thing since Ainé took over as block captain is that she is plugged into a lot of organizations and she gets things donated to make our block known in the community. We have a really good block captain.”

To follow West Rockland Street’s progress, visit the website.


Soundslide: Resident Shares Memories of West Rockland Street

During her 40 years of residency on  West Rockland Street, Ada Pullett has observed the neighborhood undergo both good and bad changes.]

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for coming to our block and putting together this nice article and the slideshows. It is a very uplifting piece. I really love the interview with Mrs. Pullett and all the nice photos and slides. Good job!

    PS Check out the Rockland Street blog:

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