Sometimes a spring landscaping cleanup is about more than cutting back perennials and hauling away weeds.
It’s about making a place tidy and fresh, so the people who live there can be proud to call it home.
A group of volunteers from Level Green Landscaping spent a recent morning cleaning up the property at The Light House, Inc. in Annapolis, a homeless prevention support center that provides shelter and services, helping people as they transition toward jobs, housing, and self sufficiency.
“People live there, both families and single individuals,” says Paul Wisniewski, division manager at Level Green. “There’s a kitchen where they give out meals. A community center with computers that’s a big gathering place. We want to make this place, their home, presentable.”
Beyond providing food, clothing, and shelter, The Light House also addresses the underlying causes of homelessness, including lack of marketable job skills, addiction, and the debilitating effects of mental and physical health issues.
It’s a big mission that leaves little time to worry about the property’s landscaping.
“They rely on volunteers to help out,” Wisniewski says. “We’d rather they focus on the good work that they do and let us help with the landscaping.”
So that’s what happened in early April when a group from Level Green’s corporate headquarters and its Anne Arundel County branch converged at the Light House for a morning of spring cleanup.
Volunteers from Level Green first tidied up the property last summer, after their friends at McHale Landscape Design asked if they’d help out. McHale crews had done spring cleanup at The Lighthouse in 2020.
But weeds and plants grow fast, and the property hadn’t been touched since last summer.
“The biggest problem was the weeds were out of control,” Wisniewski says.
The volunteers tackled the weeds, cut back roses and perennials, did some light pruning, and wrestled an extremely overgrown honeysuckle vine back into shape.
They cleaned out flower beds and prepared them for mulch they would deliver later.
It was a full morning for the group of corporate staff a bit removed from daily landscaping work.
“We’re all out of shape,” Wisniewski says with a laugh. “We got pretty tired.”
But they left feeling great.
“It’s part of doing the right thing,” Wisniewski says. “We want to support the community, and help make it better for the people who live here.”
It makes a huge difference, says Jo Ann Mattson, Executive Director of The Light House.
Individuals and families struggling with homelessness experience a great deal of trauma, Mattson says, and an important part of how The Light House helps is by offering a warm and welcoming environment, including in their outdoor spaces.
“Spending time in safe and well-maintained outdoor areas is incredibly healing for our residents and community clients,” Mattson says, “especially now, as much of our operations have had to move outside due to the pandemic.”
Landscaping takes a lot of time and effort, she says, and it’s tough for the organization to keep up, especially in recent months, as she’s seen “a heartbreaking surge in neighbors seeking our services.”
Since the start of the pandemic, the number of individuals and families The Light House serves has increased by 40 percent, Mattson says.
“It's been a challenge keeping up with this demand, and we are so grateful for support from partners like Level Green Landscaping, for being a part of our Light House community during this difficult time,” she says.
“Their talented staff have come out multiple times to spruce up our outdoor spaces and have helped make The Light House a warm and welcoming place for those we serve.”
Wisniewski is no stranger to the mission.
The Light House hosts an annual half marathon fundraiser, and Wisniewski has run in the race for the past two years.
The Level Green volunteers will be back.
“We’ll continue to visit monthly to make sure it looks nice and doesn’t get out of control again,” Wisniewski says.
Helping the Community: Be Part of Something Bigger at Level Green
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