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Volunteers Bring Baltimore Park Back to Life


Monday, September 12, 2022   

A Baltimore elementary school is getting a helping hand this week from folks who haven't been elementary students in quite a while.

The community garden and outdoor classroom at James McHenry Elementary School in Baltimore is getting a major refresh tomorrow, as about 30 volunteers gather to fix it up. Volunteers from a group called Out Teach and AARP Maryland teamed up to create the project in 2018, and have helped to maintain it alongside the students and staff ever since.

Jen Holz, associate state director for outreach at AARP Maryland, said since the pandemic began, the space has been neglected.

"Folks were not in the schools, and it was subjected to vandalism and just general wear and tear," Holz observed. "We're going back, and we're going to add some new features like a flagstone pathway, some birdhouses, some cool educational features for the kids."

AARP volunteers were already helping out at McHenry Elementary, and Holz said it has become a place where inner city kids and older people can connect, which decreases isolation for the seniors while teaching the students about nature. AARP Maryland set aside $10,000 to restore the garden.

Holz noted the project is part of AARP's Livable Communities initiative, which supports efforts to promote better communities through access to health care and employment, multigenerational activity and civic engagement.

"It was really meant to create an accessible space for people of all ages," Holz explained. "AARP, on the very local level, is continuing to support livability."

She added the initial project cost about $40,000 and transformed what had been a trash-strewn, empty lot into a vibrant community space.

Disclosure: AARP Maryland contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Energy Policy, Health Issues, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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