The GreenWorks Team Story
The GreenWorks Team is a small not-for-profit organization, incorporated in 2012. The mission of The GreenWorks Team is to organize and train “teams” of persons with emotional and cognitive disabilities to beautify public spaces in the Brooklyn community by creating lovely gardens in areas that had previously been neglected and unattractive.
The GreenWorks Team was created in 2011 by Susan Braverman and Joyce Jed, both professional horticultural therapists and horticulturists, with extensive experience working as professionals in the mental health system with persons with disabilities. They realized that there can be many significant benefits by integrating horticultural therapy activities with community improvement and greening. Horticultural therapy for people with disabilities is shown to improve cognitive functioning, such as focus and concentration; emotional areas such as mood, self-esteem, feelings of competence and hopefulness; physical fitness including motor skills and coordination; and social functioning, encouraging interaction with others, as well as awareness of and concern for the environment. By seeking out areas in the community that are neglected, the efforts of a team trained and supervised by horticultural therapists would do a service simultaneously for the team members and for the community. An added benefit would be the impact on attitudes of stigma toward people with disabilities as they are observed participating in activities which contribute to community improvement.
In the spring of 2011 The GreenWorks Team began a pilot project in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, to beautify the grounds surrounding the Windsor Terrace Library with a group of teenage students with autism who attended a local public school. The team worked once a week, learning skills and techniques for planting a garden, simultaneously improving the library environment, which had been neglected, and their own functioning over the course of the next several months. The community was extremely pleased as well.
The success of this pilot project led to a small grant for supplies, in 2012, from the Citizens Committee for New York City, to expand the Windsor Terrace Library greening project to include a more extensive decorative butterfly and perennial garden in front of the library, and seven raised community garden beds, placed in a formerly unused, desolate area behind the library. The greening team were clients from several community outpatient mental health agencies who benefited greatly from participation. One raised bed was placed in the front of the library as a “demonstration mini-farm” with informational signs about the vegetables and herbs growing there, to educate children from a nearby school and customers from a Saturday Youth Farmer’s Market held in front of the library.
In February, 2012 The GreenWorks Team incorporated as a non-profit organization. In December, 2012 the Open Space Institute Citizen Action Program became the fiscal sponsor of The GreenWorks Team.