Martin Miller and Ivan Leshinsky water, watch and worry over dozens of tree seedlings in their Brooklyn nursery -- not unlike their nurturing of troubled juveniles.
"We've had a few bugs since we started," acknowledged Miller, who generally was pleased with the garden, called "Treez N the Hood."
The nursery is a new addition at Chesapeake Center for Youth Development, 301 E. Patapsco Ave., best known for running the Hollywood Diner on Saratoga Street.
It also offers remedial education at an alternative high school for youths referred for chronic truancy and delinquent behavior.
"The white oaks, gray ash, dogwoods are coming along," Leshinsky said. "They may generate money for the school and beautify the neighborhood and help the kids. Twenty of our students are helping here."
Leshinsky, who has been the center's executive director since 1979, said students under nursery manager Miller's direction mix topsoil and mulch, water many young trees, watch things grow and, as urban children, experience a new universe of plants and landscaping.
The center has been awarded a $25,000 United Way grant, part of $500,000 United Way distributed to 28 groups in its "family preservation" program.
Leshinsky said the grant will allow him to hire a clinical social worker to assess many of the 120 youths getting remedial education.
They also receive General Educational Development preparation, job training, employment, recreation and counseling.
Leshinsky profiled the group: Ninety-eight percent are city children; 50 percent live in foster homes or with relatives; 75 percent are from dysfunctional families with drug abuse or mental problems; and 75 percent live in "severe poverty."
"When you have that combination of factors, the kids are often not being adequately tested and evaluated," Leshinsky said.
"They change addresses and schools constantly. They are in and out of juvenile placements. This professional evaluation will help. Those needing it will get medical care at area hospitals."
More than 100 groups -- United Way members and others -- applied for more than $2.5 million for projects to stabilize family relationships.
Robert Thomson, president of Zamoiski Co. and chairman of the community initiatives committee, said, "Programs must cultivate adequate family functioning, including strengthening economic stability, good citizenship and a reduced incidence of abuse and neglect."
Here is a sampling of other "family preservation" gifts, distributed LTC under the supervision of Yvette Larkin, United Way director of community initiatives:
Anne Arundel County: Food Link, $18,500 to buy inexpensive food no longer sold by supermarkets; and Opportunities Industrial Center, $17,400 for adult computer literacy courses.
Baltimore: In addition to the Chesapeake Center, the Southwestern Family Center, $25,000 for various services to teen parents and children at Southwestern High School.
Baltimore County: Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, $24,020 to counsel for parents facing divorce and child custody issues, and the YWCA of the Greater Baltimore area, $25,000 for tutoring children of homeless mothers.
Carroll County: Human Services Programs of Carroll County, $25,000 to build an outdoor recreation center.
Harford County: Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Resource Center, $12,500 for counseling victims of domestic violence.
Pub Date: 7/17/96