Celebrators find a bit of green on a gray day

Earth Day event draws a few hundred people to Collington Square Park

April 20, 2000|By Nora Koch | Nora Koch,SUN STAFF

It wasn't a typical Earth Day: A few hundred bundled-up East Baltimore neighbors milled about a city park in a neighborhood troubled by crime and drugs to have their blood pressure taken, learn about the health risks of lead paint and grab a free bite to eat.

If it wasn't the usual, yesterday's Collington Square Park event was the Earth Day celebration the event's planners, Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition Inc., wanted.

"So many times, Earth Day celebrations are in rural areas outside of the city, and we have a big effect on the environment here in the city," said Lawrence Early, the community forestry organizer who helped plan the day. "We wanted to have a celebration in the city and deal with the environmental issues here."

People who attended the event walked away with a free hot dog lunch, donated by the Maryland Food Bank, free condoms, yo-yos, crayons and coloring books. The day's sponsors gave out 1,000 T-shirts and just as many pine seedlings. Social service groups and nonprofit and government agencies handed out information and talked to neighbors who braved the blustery, overcast day, as the TRAP Band played at the other end of the park.

"Generally you can't get eco-friendly information in the city, so we're bringing it to where the bulk of people are living," said Morning Sunday-Hettleman, director for EarthDay 2000, a nonprofit group.

LaQuann Dorsey, 18, heard the festival's commotion from his home across the street and wanted to know what was going on.

The Fairmount-Harford High senior carried a stack of fliers, pamphlets and other freebies he picked up from the information booths. He said he planned to read them when he got home.

"Stuff like this can help our community come together and stop all this violence," he said. Dorsey said he thought the event was going to be strictly about the environment but was pleased to find information about local services.

Tomika Blackmon, who moved from the neighborhood after her home was robbed last year, sat behind an information table for the Caroline Center, an employment training facility for women. Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the Caroline Center helps unemployed women find work by teaching discipline and job skills.

"This neighborhood is terrible. It needs more things like this," said Blackmon, 24. "It gives the kids a chance to get out more often. A lot of people that you wouldn't think live around here do come out for things like this."

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