By Edith Morgan
For 28 years, volunteers have been assembling on the day designated as “Earth Day Clean up Day” at so many sites around Worcester, to spend the morning (usually a Saturday, come rain or come shine) cleaning up the public places in the neighborhood, filling hundreds of sturdy yellow bags to be picked up by City of Worcester DPW trucks promptly at noon.
And that is one of my regular contacts with the activities of the Regional Environmental Council (REC). This year 1,000 volunteers collected 100 tons of trash at 68 sites around Worcester!
Founded in 1971, REC has grown its way into all parts of Worcester and created generations of growers, cleaner-uppers, and gardeners.
I would have expected that, like so many organizations that are over 45 years old, by this time there would be a fancy, up-to-date office building with many employees at computers. But a visit to the headquarters of REC is a testament to its steadfast clinging to its humble and service-oriented beginnings: the offices are located on the first floor of what could be a historic brick building, with Victorian mansard-type roofs, on Castle Street in Main South – in the midst of an area in constant transition, with “works-in-progress” all around. Sidewalks are nearly non-existent, and the street is pitted and narrow.
But appearances are deceiving, as is so often the case. In these simple quarters a great deal of important and useful community work is hatched, coordinated and maintained.
It’s spring, and our thoughts turn to growing and planting. In the city, opportunities for gardening are often limited, especially in the densely populated areas where yards a small or non-existent, and where children grow up believing that produce and milk come from stores. Those of us who are teachers know of the children’s joy in watching a seed grow in a tiny cup, or tending a school-yard garden.
Trying to fulfill its mission to help “build healthy, sustainable and just communities” has brought REC members and volunteers into work not only in Main South, but throughout the city. From establishing community gardens in parks, at schools, at the Worcester Senior Center – wherever there is a public space that could support something to grow. The ultimate goal is to establish a sustainable, local food system.
And as an “extra” benefit, this system enables our inner-city younth to find employment, learn to grow their own healthy and nourishing food, and in the process acquire good eating habits and an appreciation for the bounty of nature.
REC’s “UGROW” (Urban Garden Resources ofWorcester) network, which began with just one volunteer and one garden in 1995, has grown to more than 60 community gardens throughout Worcester with more than 500 gardeners, and at some point involving 2,000 Worcester students!!
There are so many ways that REC programs reach into the community: the network provides for delivery of compost, soil testing services, gardening workshops, organic seedlings and other forms of technical assistance for would-be gardeners.
With the aid of government funding, the youthGROW program employs up to 40 High school teens who receive on-going training while they tend to the community gardens scattered throughout the city.
To experience one of REC’s many activities, drop in some Wednesday between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the YouthGROW Farm at 63 Oread St!
Or shop at their farmers market at Crystal (University) Park every Saturday morning. Or buy fresh produce and more from their mobile market van … or attend their plant sale and community festival every spring!
REC FARMERS MARKET SCHEDULE
Grow your community! Shop the
REC COMMUNITY FARMERS’ MARKETS
WORCESTER, JUNE 19 – OCTOBER 28
UNIVERSITY PARK FARM STAND
Saturdays, 9 AM – 1 PM
965 Main St.
BEAVER BROOK PARK FARMERS’ MARKET
Mondays & Fridays, 9 AM – 1 PM
306 Chandler St.
And don’t forget: