A nonprofit organization in Mobile County is teaching kids valuable life skills while helping the environment.
Groundwork Mobile County (GMC) recently completed its first Green Team youth employment program where six teens spent a month working in community gardens in Mobile County. GMC Executive Director Barja Wilson said the kids loved it.
“They were very proud,” Wilson said. “Being able to produce a tangible project that the kids are excited about, it’s very transformational.”
GMC was founded in 2017 when Groundwork USA selected Mobile to join its program, becoming the first community in Alabama to be selected. After studying needs and developing a long-term action plan, GMC hired Wilson this spring to make the plan a reality.
“It’s very special that it is here,” Wilson said. “We have so many plusses but we also have so many minuses, and so for us to be able to come in and start working on some of those issues within our city, such as turning brown fields into usable spaces, cleaning blighted properties and turning those into community gardens, it’s exciting.”
Wilson said GMC focuses on five areas within the Mobile region: brown field remediation, vacant properties, urban rivers and trails, youth training and development and neighborhood revitalization. She said partnerships with Mobile Urban Growers, the Mobile County Commission and the city of Mobile helped her quickly get the plans moving.
“It was a lot of pulling together,” Wilson said. “I think we did pretty well to pull together in such a short time frame.”
Wilson said more partnerships will help GMC expand its program.
“I would love to grow the Green Team well beyond six students,” Wilson said. “Even if they don’t choose community gardening, horticulture or landscape architecture as a career path, they have that experience to be able to help a parent or go into the community and help grow a garden. It’s teaching them about our environment and our local ecosystem as well as giving them something they can use going forward.”