A special tikkun olam project of Milwaukee's Congregation Shir Hadash on June 1st drew approximately 75 people working side by side to plant a community garden at the Children's Outing Association's (COA) Goldin Center at 2320 W. Burleigh St. This is one of the poorest and most crime-ridden areas in the city. The project involved community residents as well as volunteers of all ages and from all walks of life from Shir Hadash, Milwaukee’s Reconstructionist congregation. People of all ages came together to plant a community garden and to beautify the grounds of the Center.
COA Youth & Family Centers was founded in 1906 as a fresh air camp for needy immigrant children of Milwaukee. Today, the agency provides camping and year-round programs including early education, after school and summer activities, adult education, and family and parenting programs.
The work began in the morning and continued throughout the day with time set aside for community prayers of thankfulness and lunch. Geoff Lowry, Director of the Goldin Center sees this as a “beautiful collaboration of community members, senior citizens, pre-teens, and teens as well as volunteers from Shir Hadash.”
The center, formerly the Police Athletic League, was purchased by COA two years ago and serves as a community center focusing on “at risk” teenagers, and their families. The center also works in partnership with Auer Avenue School in an after school program for school age children. The long range hope is to create a safe and active neighborhood community center for the entire area. Community residents have an array of programming options to keep them busy and involved in activities that will benefit them and the community.
Tom Schneider, executive director of COA, explained that the community garden and beautification plan was only “part of the process of transforming the entire neighborhood.” He further explained that as recently two years ago the sports field, now called Selig Sports Field, was nothing but rock and asphalt. Today it is a green playing field with a playground in the corner and room for baseball or soccer. Selig Field will have an official grand opening ceremony on July 31, 2008.
The second phase of this three phase project was a covered patio area which was “built with the blood sweat and tears” of the volunteers. The community garden and landscape beautification is the third and final phase of the project.
Community members and congregational members of all age groups described this project as “fantastic, a wonderful experience, a place to work side by side with people we didn’t know and do God’s work.” The beautiful weather along with violin music provided by Barb Truitt, a Shir Hadash congregant who now lives in Cleveland, set the tone for happy faces, laughter and conversation. The garden will be nurtured and cared for by volunteers from the center and Congregation Shir Hadash during the summer. The Goldin senior citizen groups plan to harvest the bounty later in the summer and prepare a neighborhood feast.
(Submitted by Eve Dicker Eiseman)