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A Different Take on How Things Work in Rochester…

October 3, 2013
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City's 2013 Volunteer Reception

City’s 2013 Volunteer Reception at RMSC

My wife and I were invited to the City’s annual Volunteer Reception on Monday, October 1, 2013 along with others  who have worked on various Neighborhood gardens. But this  was not an event featuring the local glitterati, instead it was a fairly low cost affair involving everyday folk where most of the time was spent watching the Deputy Mayor Leonard E. Redon and leaders from the  Department of Recreation and Youth Services (DRYS) honor virtually every one of the hundreds in attendance.  If that doesn’t sound exciting, it was (despite nearby displays in the Rochester Museum and Science Center) the amazing concept demonstrated that night.  One comes away from this event with a very positive take on our City and how it works together with its citizens – including many young people.  Certainly if more press and people were made truly aware of the vast scope of what volunteers mean to Rochester, it could be image shifting.   On Monday,  volunteers were present from the Edgerton Model Railroad Club, as well as Sports-Focused groups who support youth wrestling,  Little League baseball,  and Hockey.  Present were  Recreation and Community Center Volunteers,  Friends of the Public Market, Young adults from Americorps and Nazareth College’s Center for Service Learning, et cetera, et cetera…including other residents who volunteer just to pick up around the City.   Beyond the numbers, another takeaway was the grassroots aspects of many projects; quite a few people were honored for an idea that they first took to the City and then helped make happen.

And then there were the Gardeners!  Many, many from what appeared to be every nook and cross street in the City apparently all with little heralded but still magnificent volunteer gardens.  Present were representatives from Neighborhood sized projects, for example,  from  the Maplewood Gardening Team,  Charlotte,  Beechwood,  Upper Monroe’s Wide Water Gardens Maple Grove and, of course,  our own  Highland Park Neighborhood Association.

As impressive as all these well coordinated community efforts are, what was even more endearing to me were the many small projects tended by one or two people.  These include small plots,  residential front yards and planter gardens which, while not having a website, offer much to our quality of life.  These illustrate on a small scale the concepts of Placemaking that we find so interesting.   And all these gardening projects, whether in one planter or a pocket park, now remind me of  James’ Vick advice in 1882.    I am hoping that the City publishes a list of all the small, medium and large gardens that were honored as not only as  great advertising for our City, but also as I wish to take a tour of many of the special places that were described during the evening.

As noted at the event, the celebration was limited to those who were invited and choose to attend, but the number of  all who volunteer for this city is much more than just a few hundred.  I’d love to see a group photo from a larger event where every volunteer, from neighborhood associations,  library supporters,  parent groups associated with our schools,  Clean Sweep volunteers, PAC-TAC walkers and everyone  else including those invited on Monday.  Just the raw number in such a group portrait would make a statement about Rochester…one I don’t really recall being emphasized  as much as should be.

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