Mission Track participants descended on a community of low income housing, rolling up their sleeves and ready to turn the ramshackle residences into environmentally sustainable gems. They ripped up paving stones, pulled weeds, and churned ground as Jan Hanlon, coordinator of the Climate Action Now project, answered their questions and beamed as she looked on.
“I’m absolutely amazed at how quickly work is getting done,” she said. “It would have taken volunteers a lot of time to do this project. A lot of the residents here are disabled and on social assistance for good reason. With this group taking care of the hard labour, residents can plant trees and flowers.”
The new plants and shrubs will be indigenous to the Niagara region, and less pavement means less heat will be attracted during the hot summer months. New high efficiency furnaces were recently installed in residents’ homes and new windows are planned for the future. This is a pilot project, but one Hanlon hopes can be used elsewhere in Niagara.
“I feel blessed to be here,” said resident Natasha Whitaker, who came out to watch the work. “I think it’s a great location, close to the country. And it’s a co-op so people work trying to keep it nice. It’s a real community.”
Whitaker has lived in the complex with her 22-month old daughter for almost a year now. Before moving in, she spent time in shelters and transitional housing as she struggled to recover from addiction. Yesterday marked her second anniversary of being sober.
“Those places were a real blessing to me,” she said. Among the places she stayed during those difficult times are the YWCA and Bethlehem Housing, two other projects where the mission track participants will be pitching in this week.
Despite the heat and hard work, the youth kept up their spirits. In the words of Kaitlyn Lamont, a youth from Ottawa: “This is our own little worship.”
“Pilot Project Helps Put the Green in Meadow Green Co-Op” in the St. Catharines Standard, Wednesday July 22, 2009.