By Will McClure
In September of 2015, a group of concerned Stamford citizens looked to help reclaim Stamford by starting a clean-up process on the northwest side of town, where most of them were raised. Now, almost one year later, this same group of people, formed together as the Diversified Citizens Community Organization, has gone above and beyond their initial plans with the help of the city, other citizens, and the pursuit of a vision to help make Stamford a better place. Sarah "Dee" Woods, a spokesperson for the Diversified Citizens Community Organization (DCCO), related the work that has been done thus far and gave insight on the vision that she hopes will become a reality in the near future.
While no major clean-up days have been done recently, it has been an ongoing process around the Washington Park area to clear out the brush as well as the clearing of houses due to the ongoing Reclaiming Stamford project. Woods said that members of Swenson Ranch donated time and equipment to help remove the brush, which took place over a five week period. Citizens have been helping since then to keep the area clean as well as remove weeds until the next phase of the project can move forward with the building of affordable homes well as help renovate and eventually reopen the community center. The DCCO was able to receive $500 from the Community Network last year, which has gone to help redo the bathrooms, but more work will have to be done before the center can be completed. Woods said that she is planning to speak to the City Council in the future to try and raise more money to help get the center operational once again. Woods said that there is a possibility that the DCCO may receive a community grant to help with the process, but nothing can be confirmed until she could speak with councilman Dennis Braden, who is the councilman for the DCCO's district, along with the rest of the City Council.
While there has been a lull in major clean-up, Woods said that it has been an ongoing process to maintain the area as well as prepare the area next to the park to be a vegetable garden. Woods said that the process is a new venture for the community as they have no prior experience in gardening, but they have received some much needed help to get the ground ready to plant, which the plan is to have the vegetables planted in March.
"Bob Lovvorn has really been a big mentor in helping us with planting," Woods said. "He has provided us with a tiller and a shredder and has really mentored us throughout the entire process. We have had no prior experience in planting, so he has been a really big help in that. He has helped us come up with ideas in helping clean up the land and even possibly planting fruit trees in one area and even grape vines."
Along with the garden, the plan is to also construct a pavilion that will connect the garden to Washington Park. Woods said the ultimate plan is to plant a viable garden where, at the end of the year when it would need to be harvested, they can have a big dinner for the community to commemorate all of their hard work and reward them on a job well done. Woods said that they are hoping to also have someone come in to partner with to help bring some of the crop to market, which would be essential in the fundraising process to help keep Stamford clean.
Woods said that there are many goals and visions to what the area will become once all of the hard work is completed, and she said that some people have a hard time seeing the vision, but as more people have joined in the process, the vision will soon be a reality as additional people have helped see what the area can and will become. Woods concluded that while the project may not be moving quickly, it is indeed moving in the right direction as, in the beginning, the project was only in the northwest side of town, but has grown over the last year to include more area southwest of where it all started.
Louise Griggs, another DCCO leader, also wanted to express their appreciation to Matt Mueller, John Wendeborn, and the Richards family, who donated herbicides to help with weed control.
All in all, Woods stated that the process will continue to press forward one step at a time as more individuals look to make their community beautiful once again. While there is still a lot more to do, it is all part of the process to help repair, restore and renew Stamford. If you would like to help in the organization's efforts, you can contact Dee Woods at 325-773-2938 or 325-513-7505 or Louise Griggs at 325-370-3792.