OK people, the day of our Garden Street cleanup is almost upon us.
If you recall, photographer Rick Hartford and I spent a week on the Hartford street last month, chronicling the state of the North End neighborhood and the people who live there.
We found the expected — poverty, blight, crime. Three of this year's homicides occurred there, which is what brought us to Garden to begin with. And just recently, there was another fatal shooting just a few streets away at Albany Avenue and Edgewood Street.
But we also met a lot of proud and hard-working people who are hanging in despite the odds; investing in their city and neighborhood with hope that enough care and determination could turn things around:
Taylor Lewis and her neighbors Mr. Green and Miss Sally, owners of the charming Habitat for Humanity homes at the end of the street.
Clayton Jackman, one of four generations living in the same Garden Street house. Nineteen-year-old Jackman is off to a culinary internship soon, but was the first one to sign up for the neighborhood cleanup.
Ashley Johnson, the energetic youth pastor at nearby Urban Hope Refuge Church, who recently returned from college to work in the neighborhood he loves.
They, and so many others we met, were so clearly committed and inspiring that after our week on Garden, I found it impossible to just walk away.
So, the Garden Street Garbage Walk was born.
It's not an original idea. It's definitely not a fix-all. It's just a small way to help out a neighborhood and its residents who could use a little backup.
So far, people seem to be responding. Most of the residents I met tell me they'll be there, which is good because no change can be sustained without them.
Charmaine Craig, from the Knox Parks Foundation, is kindly hooking us up with supplies, although I'd suggest anyone coming bring their own gloves.
Kevin Burnham, from Hartford's Department of Public Works, has agreed to have the garbage picked up after we're done collecting it that day.
Fellow columnist Susan Campbell has offered to be my wing-girl, which in addition to picking up garbage means helping hand out water and doughnuts. (That's right, there will be doughnuts!)
And the list of people and groups who say they'll participate keeps growing: ACORN, Habitat for Humanity, Star Mentoring, Leadership Greater Hartford. Maybe a Boy Scout troop or two.
I'm hopeful that everyone who says they're coming will actually show, but even if just a few do, we can still put a dent in the litter.
Here are the details of the cleanup, which will go on rain or shine.
•It's this Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to noon.
•Meet at the Veeder Place parking lot on the corner of Sargeant and Garden (exact address is 20-28 Sargeant St.) at 9:45 a.m.
•Garbage bags and some tools will be supplied, but bring your own gloves and whatever else you might need.
Depending on how many people show, we'll fan out and try to cover as much of the street as possible.
Stay for as little or as much of the two hours as you can.
No pressure. But come.
Did I mention there will be doughnuts?
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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