It was warm, but not yet hot Thursday morning when the team from Atlas Premier Realty descended upon the overgrown garden lot off Milton Avenue, in Westminster.
“There’s not a better day to come out here and play around in the garden,” said Greg Brock, owner of Atlas, covered in flecks of green and holding a string trimmer.
“It was nice, definitely broke a sweat,” added Multimedia Specialist Andrew Kutcher. “We tore out of a lot of weeds. This fence you couldn’t even see.”
Brock, Kutcher and two more of their colleagues had come out to the Human Services Programs of Carroll County, Inc., community garden as part of the United Way of Central Maryland’s Fifth Annual Day of Action, which coordinated volunteers at multiple sites across Maryland on Thursday, according to United Way Director of Development Bruce Kranig.
“Overall we have about 1,000 volunteers today doing about 40 different projects throughout our service area,” Kranig said. “We actually have two in Carroll County — there’s one at the Boys & Girls Club, reading with kids.”
Thursday’s work at the garden, weeding and winterizing the garden so it can be planted to cover crops, was part of the United Way’s healthy foods initiative, according to Kranig.
It was also a huge help to HSP, according to Mike Fisher, a job coach with HSP’s Opportunity Works program, which manages the garden.
“In our community garden, we produce about 1,000 pounds of food annually and we serve about 700 households,” Fisher said. “It’s helping to keep people out of poverty. They don’t necessarily need to spend their money — they can come to us and get fresh produce from our community-run store, Second Chances.”
The garden also provides a vehicle for the mission of the opportunity Works program within HSP, Fisher said, a workforce development program that helps people transitioning from incarceration or recovery from other life disrupting issues build employable skills.
“The garden serves a dual purpose,” he said. “It has a mission to assist in the community and serving the community itself, but it also provides on-the-job training for landscaping, manual labor work for people who are not necessarily looking to do your average customer service work; they want to get outside and do things.”
That fits with the United Way’s major ongoing role with HSP, supporting the family stability program, according to Kranig.
“The Family stability program helps families avoid homelessness. They are still in their house but have an eviction notice or some kind of situation where they are going to be homeless,” he said. “We work with them to get out of crisis and then give them the tools and the support going forward so they don’t find themselves back there.”
The United way funds the program, and HSP facilitates it, Kranig said.
Brock said his company tries to get out and volunteer at least once a quarter, whether it’s with the United Way or Habitat for Humanity or other area nonprofits.
Kutcher, for his part, said he wouldn’t mind coming back and helping get the garden started in the spring.
“I love being outside,” he said. “It beats being stuck in the office on a beautiful day like this.”