On Jan. 19, the Office of Community-Based Public Health (OCBPH) at the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health partnered with Neighbors that Love (NTL) community group in their Second Annual Day of Service to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. About 120 volunteers gathered that morning at the Bishop Leodies and Goldie Warren Family Life Center on 12th Street in the heart of Little Rock and spent the day working on beautification and gardening projects for the surrounding neighborhood.
Neighbors that Love co-founder Anika Whitfield, DMP, welcomed the volunteers with remarks about Dr. King’s legacy of service and lifetime commitment to racial equality and social justice. Participants divided into work groups and received their assignments for the day: raking leaves, preparing a composting lot, building portable garden boxes, readying the Promise Garden Park at the corner of 12th and Peyton streets for spring crops, and clearing debris from a vacant lot.
Close to 40 volunteers spread out along West 13th, Peyton and Washington streets, raking leaves and picking up trash. Nearly 200 bags of leaves were collected from the homes of residents, alleyways and empty lots. The leaves were deposited to an empty lot that NTL recently acquired from the city and plans to turn into a large space for composting.
Another group of volunteers filled more than 20 wooden boxes with soil and transferred cabbages, collards and turnip greens from the garden into them. The boxes are being delivered to area residents who had expressed an interest in having one. The group also cleared and added compost to garden beds at the garden park in preparation for spring planting.
Another group cleared debris from a lot where an old building had recently been demolished. The lot, owned by a NTL member, will be transformed into a space to promote community gatherings around healthy food, recreation and green space.
Volunteers enjoyed a late lunch of barbeque and pizza to end the work day.
The Promise Garden was established last year by NTL and is its primary project. In its first growing season it produced large yields of sweet potatoes, peas, beans, kale, turnip greens, cilantro, watermelons, cantaloupes and other crops, which were distributed to neighbors.
Besides the COPH OCBPH, other collaborating organizations and volunteers included Bishop Leodies and Goldie Warren Family Life Center, Great Christ Temple Church, the Young Adult Opportunity Center, Arkansas Commitment, the O.K. Program, the Korean Disciple Church of Arkansas, Mosaic Templars, Centennial Bank, and many neighbors and individuals.
Neighbors that Love is a community-based organization founded in 2013 from a desire to build on already existing community assets in the 12th Street area and to actively contribute to the ongoing revitalization efforts there. Neighbors that Love manages the Promise Garden Park and the 12th and Oak Community Garden in addition to hosting monthly Days of Neighborly Love. For more information about NTL, email NeighborsThatLove@gmail.com.