Submitted by Kathy Garret
For a couple of days during the first summer of GRDC’s Beautification Task Force, Vicki Holmes’ backyard looked like a wedding was about to take place. There were 50 rose bushes and “I don’t know how many flats of flowers” waiting on her back porch. Volunteers from all five neighborhoods came to Vicki’s backyard, and took flowers back to their neighborhoods to plant on islands and in parks. But there was one small garden Vicki had a particular interest in. Just south of Grand River, this garden was nothing more than weeds and garbage. “That garden looked terrible, so we weeded it, picked up the trash, put decorative bricks around it, and planted rose bushes. The bricks were stolen or knocked loose three times. Even the roses were stolen. We kept on replacing the bricks and rebuilding the low brick wall. We planted more roses. It’s been just over a year and we haven’t had to replace the bricks or the roses.” As a volunteer of the Task Force since its beginning, Vicki believes that this is where the connection between community and beautification occurs. “People see the garden there now. They’ve noticed that someone cares, that this garden is being taken care of by somebody.” And that’s really the point of the Task Force for Vicki. “If you see one person doing one small thing to make the neighborhood just a little better, you are building community. Just watering roses at the corner is important. Picking up trash at a vacant lot is important. You don’t have to go to a bunch of meetings or devote hours and hours. Your neighbor sees you doing your one small thing, and then your neighbor finds one small thing to do, and that spreads.”
The 34 year resident of Minock Park also participates in the monthly litter pick-up event called “Trash Talkin’. Vicki is usually there working away at building community. “When we get together, we meet our neighbors, and we chat about what’s going on. It feels good. It’s more than just picking up trash.” Vicki and the Task Force also cleaned up a vacant lot and put up a split rail fence. The lot has remained litter free with little maintenance. “Like that small garden, I think it’s because people see the cleaned up lot, and they see that there’s a community here.”
When Vicki and her husband Jarrell married, they knew that they would live in Detroit, Jarrell’s home town. They moved to Minock Park because they “loved the community spirit and the diversity of the neighborhood.” After a career as a special education teacher and administrator, three kids and four grandkids, Vicki believes that “the community spirit is still here. I know everyone on my block. We help each other. That hasn’t changed.” Growing up in Muskegon, Vicki learned the importance of community from her parents. “I was raised to get involved and give back.” Vicki has continued this legacy with her own family. “My sons-in-law knew if they married in, they had to get involved. All three of them have planted trees when GRDC, along with Greening of Detroit, planted over 130 trees in Minock Park.” Her four grandchildren are still a bit young, but soon, surely their grandmother will put shovels in their hands and teach them how to build community.