By Bill Sullivan
The uniformed baseball players from the National and American Leagues weren’t the only all-stars in town last month for Major League Baseball’s annual All-Star Game.
Volunteers from many states literally “dug in” to give the landscape a much-needed facelift at a local boys and girls club in Northeast Washington, D.C. Volunteer Alexandria led implementation of the project.
With a grant from Major League Baseball, Volunteer Alexandria joined Greenstreet Gardens of Alexandria to create a design and install a new landscape at the Richard England Clubhouse #14 Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington at 4103 Benning Road, NE in the District.
Greenstreet’s Jessica Furness and Volunteer Alexandria’s Executive Director, Marion Brunken devised the garden plan’s blueprint. Retail marketing specialist, Scott Sutherland and landscape supervisor, Carlos Ruiz took it to the site to work with MLB’s and Volunteer Alexandria’s staff and volunteers for implementation.
Volunteers included a high school baseball team from Cleveland, high school girls’ softball team from Houston, college students from both George Washington and Georgetown universities, employees of corporate sponsors like Bank of America and the official mascots from MLB’s Cincinnati Reds (“Rosie Red”) and Detroit Tigers (“Paws”).
In all, 95 people, ranging from high school students to senior citizens pulled on work gloves to till soil, remove dead trees, uproot weeds, cut landscape beds, install plants and finally, mulch their new creations. Some even painted the nearby picnic tables. Volunteers spread newspaper on the soil to control weeds before spreading mulch – a simple lesson on the benefits of recycling.
People visiting the club for a game of Ping-Pong or basketball took notice of the rehab project, according to Sutherland.
“One lady stopped and told us how much nicer the place looked,” Sutherland said, adding “it’s a comment like that which makes all this effort worthwhile.”
Greenstreet worked closely with Brunken, who not only supervised the project, but pitched in to swing a pick-axe and wield a shovel to dig holes for shrubs, perennials and trees.
Brunken approached Greenstreet Gardens for help in terms of a landscape design blueprint, plant selection and advice on what to plant and where. Ray Greenstreet, owner of Greenstreet Gardens donated staffing and plants at reduced prices.
“Marion and I met twice on site, taking photos and measurements to determine how many plants might be needed and what kinds of specimens would thrive in that environment,” Sutherland said.
Back at Greenstreet Gardens, Sutherland sifted through the wide inventory to fill a delivery truck with Fothergilia, Viburnum, Redbud, Holly, Virginia Sweetspire, Coral Bells, Black-Eyed Susan, Purple Coneflower, Skip Laurel, Butterfly Weed and Coreopsis. At Volunteer Alexandria’s request, Sutherland also native plants and plant cultivars.
“It was a group effort,” Sutherland told me. “Some volunteers were more into it than others, but I think everyone left with a feeling like, ‘Hey, I remember when I was a kid and went to the local rec center for a game or other fun.’ So, hopefully, they’ll have fond memories from this project in making this rec center appealing for kids that come here for after-school activities or summer fun.”
Even after two days of hands-on landscaping in the scorching July heat and humidity, Sutherland, trained as a Master Gardener was smiling as he showed me the before-and-after pictures of the transformation in Anacostia.
“My grandmother got me into gardening in Alaska when I was a 9-year-old,” he said. “I always loved to work out in the yard and this project gave me a chance to kind of re-live that.”