Hard work is music to their ears

Park cleanup lets fans labor in exchange for tickets to a Beyonce Knowles concert

June 25, 2007|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,Sun reporter

Pop diva Beyonce Knowles helped clean up Druid Hill Park yesterday without lifting a manicured finger.

In exchange for a ticket to her Aug. 8 concert at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore, more than 400 teenagers and adults spent four hours pulling weeds, raking mulch and picking up fallen branches at Druid Hill and another park in Edgewood in Harford County this weekend.

New York-based Boost Mobile RockCorps bought the tickets and organized the community service event under the theme "You've Got 2 Give 2 Get." The partnership started in 2005 hosting cleanups and concerts in larger U.S. cities such as Los Angeles and Atlanta.

This is its first stop in Baltimore - and only because locals asked for it, said movie director Chris Robinson, an Edgewood native and co-founder of RockCorps.

"I always wanted to bring the program here, but we couldn't justify it," said Robinson, who directed the movie ATL and who splits his time between Bel Air in Harford County and Los Angeles. "The only way we got to come was because Baltimore voted online on our Web site."

Radio station 92Q Jams began advertising the event a few weeks ago and word spread quickly.

Jerry Millings, 15, said that his stepmother signed him up along with his best friend, Michael Hicks, 16. Both attend National Academy Foundation High School in Baltimore.

The concert "is something to look forward to," said Hicks as he pushed a wheelbarrow filled with bottled water for volunteers.

Many volunteers said they wouldn't be able to attend the concert otherwise.

"I wouldn't spend my own check" on a Beyonce ticket, said Keyonna Carroll, 19, of Baltimore. "It costs too much."

Yesterday the cheapest tickets available on Ticketmaster.com were $70.80, including fees. That means volunteers earned roughly $17.70 per hour.

"This is a good way to earn the ticket," said Latrelle Jasmine Scott, 20, a Morgan State University student from Baltimore who said that she had never done yardwork before. "It's definitely a different way."

Scott spent the morning shoveling mulch out of a wheelbarrow and spreading it around the base of cherry and oak trees along Druid Hill Lake.

"This really picks up the city, seeing all of these kids come out," said volunteer Chanell Abdul, 26, of Baltimore. "There's no officials around. No police. There's not much supervision, and these kids are doing a good job and working together. Many of them are from different parts of the city."

In 2002, RockCorps borrowed the work-for-a-ticket idea from the Greenbucks Foundation, a Colorado-based group that gave free lawn tickets to concertgoers in exchange for their help cleaning the venue after the show, Robinson said.

Boost Mobile, a subsidiary of Sprint Nextel that develops cell phone products for the youth market, joined as the group's sponsor in 2005.

Robinson, 39, who graduated from Edgewood High School in 1985, characterized music as an incentive to serve.

Barbara Dillard, 30, of Severn said the Beyonce ticket was an incentive to work. She took one of the most backbreaking assignments: pushing branches and brush into piles.

"It's a lot of work, but it's good for the community," said Dillard, who works at the Department of Justice.

She heard about the event through a friend at work, who heard about it on the radio.

"It feels good pitching in to help," she said. "It should happen all of the time, whether you're getting something or not."

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

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