By Kathy Chouteau
On a recent Saturday, 19 worker bees from Reentry Success Center’s Men’s Group arrived at the Community Green Space at Harbour Way & Macdonald Avenue ready for some serious spring cleaning. Teaming up to cut weeds, rake leaves and remove trash, the group managed to collect an eye-popping 65 bags of debris and two yards of bulky waste in just under three hours.
The clean-up effort was part of a partnership between Richmond Main Street Initiative (RMSI) and Reentry Success Center (RSC) that’s been in the works for three years—delayed by the pandemic—and which came to fruition this month with the Men’s Group officially adopting the space to help keep it debris-free via regular caretaking.
An urban oasis in the heart of downtown Richmond, the Community Green Space’s inviting corner is resplendent with a colorful array of eclectic art, roses, trees, botanicals and tables bedecked with mosaic board games. It offers the perfect spot for an outdoor lunch, a community gathering or a place to just take in the peaceful environs.
“This space is very special and important to the community,” said RMSI Interim Executive Director Alicia Gallo. “It has been challenging to find ways to give it the love and care that it really needs. When the Reentry Success Center opened its doors downtown and I met with Pat [Mims, RSC director], one of the first things we talked about was the Community Green Space and how we could work together to activate it more.”
Enter the Men’s Group, one of numerous support groups at RSC that empowers participants to share openly in a safe space while among supportive peers. Members of the Men’s Group, which meets Tuesday nights, were on the lookout for ways they could give back to the community.
According to Mims, a member said, “I wish we could take back our city one block at a time.” And with that, the seeds of the partnership between RMSI and RSC were sown. Although the pandemic threw a monkey wrench into their plans for a spell, the RSC Men’s Group was recently able to finally adopt the Community Green Space earlier this month. “Community healing is the result of partnerships such as these,” said Mims, who oversees RSC’s work serving justice-impacted individuals and their families as they return to the community from incarceration.
Through monthly caretaking work days and activities for RSC members and residents, the Community Green Space is back in action as a beautiful downtown retreat for everyone.
According to RSC and RMSI, also impactful are the opportunities for personal growth and community building, summarized by RSC member Stephen Miner, who at the start of the work day said of the new venture, “I would rather be here than anywhere else.”
The re-activation of the Community Green Space is underway, through monthly caretaking work days and socially-distanced activities for RSC members and residents