Volunteers and local youth fight blight in San Bernardino neighborhood
Neighborhood volunteer Barbara Witmer (left) joins Josafina Suarez, a Serrano Middle School student who lives near the Children’s Learning Gardens, in weeding and planting one of 14 garden boxes where neighborhood youth learn about nutrition and gardening.
Volunteers from half a dozen area churches and schools gathered on Sunday, January 21, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. to clean, paint, plant, and build on Loma Linda University Medical Center’s after-school site on Norman Road in southeastern San Bernardino. The project was coordinated by Ron Graybill, PhD, community outreach director for the Medical Center and its Norton Neighborhoods Initiative.
Not only did they paint, plant, and build at the after-school site known as “The Gardens,” but they also cleaned up empty lots in the adjacent neighborhood bounded by Central Avenue on the north, Waterman Avenue on the west, Orange Show Road on the south, and Tippecanoe Avenue on the east.
The Medical Center’s landscaping department supplied a crew of four with a dump truck and front loader to assist. Also, the City of San Bernardino provided a 30-foot “roll-off” dumpster through the offices of Dany Nolfo in code compliance for the area, and Nick Gonzalez, the mayor’s neighborhood liaison.
Children, youth, and adults from this San Bernardino neighborhood attend a variety of after-school programs at the one-acre site at 948 East Norman Road. Activities include tutoring and mentoring, work experience education, nutrition, safety, and music education, as well as English language instruction for parents (see <www.healthycities.com> for more information).
The property is leased from the family of Betty and Charles Lewis of Los Angeles. Charles Lewis is a nephew of the late mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, and old timers in the neighborhood identify the home with the Bradley family.
The Lewis’s lease the property to the Medical Center for about half the market value, and the Medical Center then rents the home to graduate students who “repay” their rental advantage by helping out with the programs in the neighborhood.
Neighborhood cleanup is especially important to the youth of the neighborhood. Asked to vote on which neighborhood challenges were most serious—drugs, gangs, unemployment, lack of sidewalks, or jobs—there was only one issue every single young person voted as a “very serious problem,” and that was “people dumping trash in our neighborhood.”
So on Sunday, those young people worked shoulder to shoulder with the volunteers as part of their own “work experience education” program.
By Preston Clarke Smith