Hundreds of people lined up in the cold Tuesday outside the Salvation Army center in West Baltimore to apply for 22 jobs - and a chance to make Baltimore a cleaner and greener city.
As job seekers filed inside to fill out applications and interview, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings arrived to hoist an oversize check for $1.1 million in federal stimulus funds that the two Maryland Democrats had helped secure.
The jobs, provided through the Parks and People Foundation, a local nonprofit, will focus on reducing urban trash and pollution fouling Baltimore's harbor and the Chesapeake Bay.
"This is a day of real opportunities for the people of Baltimore, and a day of opportunity for the Chesapeake Bay," said Jacqueline Carrera, president and CEO of the foundation. The jobs pay $8 to $13 an hour to start, with benefits, she said, and most of the workers will be assigned to four teams working on planting trees, maintaining park trails, picking up trash and retrofitting storm drains to reduce the amount of pollution getting into them and ultimately into local waters.
Outside the Salvation Army center in the 1600 block of W. Baltimore St. stood an example of the kinds of projects the teams could work on. What had been a wide brick walkway has been hollowed out to create a "rain garden," with trees, grasses and flowers. An opening has been cut in the curb to divert rain from the gutter into the area, officially known as a "bioretention facility."
Bill Stack, acting chief of surface water management for the city's Department of Public Works, welcomed the help of the "Green Up, Clean Up" teams. Their work will have the duel benefit of reducing the storm water pollution that fouls city waters, he said, while enhancing the quality of life in Baltimore neighborhoods.
The $1 million federal grant is enough to serve a handful of neighborhoods over the next 18 months. But officials said it is a model for tackling the urban pollution in this part of the bay.
"If this was done in every neighborhood, we'd be making tremendous progress," Cardin said.
Cummings said those who land jobs will help spread an environmental ethic in the city.
"A lot of times in neighborhoods like this they do not even think about the environment," he said. "It will cause people to have greater appreciation. Hopefully, we'll have generation after generation be more environmentally sensitive and savvy."
Those filling the sidewalk outside the Salvation Army center had more immediate reasons for welcoming the funding.
Wanda Allen, 40, said she'd been waiting more than an hour for a chance to fill out an application and interview. She's been out of work more than a year since losing her nursing job.
"I'm willing to take anything," she said. "I'm not picky at all."
Gregory McNeill, 53, heard about the jobs through his parole officer. After serving 27 years on a bank robbery charge, he's been looking for work for a month.
"I'm trying to do the right thing and get employment," he said.
City Councilwoman Agnes Welch was so moved to see such an outpouring of seekers for so few jobs that she arranged to have applications for census work handed out while the crowd waited.
The event was one of two announcements Tuesday of more federal funding to help clean up the bay. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and other officials gathered at a dairy farm near Havre de Grace to celebrate nearly $4 million from the Department of Agriculture that will go to help farmers in the six-state bay watershed plan how to reduce runoff. Maryland farmers are to receive $1.2 million.