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Miami - tool theft halts community garden project

  • Subject: [cg] Miami - tool theft halts community garden project
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2006 14:38:52 -0700 (PDT)

Miami Herald, Florida
Aug 26, 2006

OVERTOWN: Theft of landscaping tools halts garden

A theft of garden tools halted an inner-city
beautification program and threatened to leave its
employees out of work.


For 13 years, motorists on I-95 and pedestrians on
side streets have seen teams of students and residents
planting flowers and picking up trash to spruce up
sections of Overtown. The beautification program,
dubbed Roots in the City, has blossomed to provide a
few regular jobs for hard-to-place workers.

That work came to an abrupt halt this week after
someone stole power landscaping equipment that
belonged to the program, which was created by former
Florida International University professor Marvin

Without the tools, five full-time and several
part-time employees are out of work. Because of their
histories, some of them may have problems finding
other employment.

''We hire people who are hard to employ. These are
Overtown residents who have police records, single
mothers,'' Marvin Dunn said.

The theft was discovered Tuesday when a work crew
arrived at a storage shed at Overtown's Culmer
Community Center, 1490 NW Third Ave., to begin their
shift, said Robert Dunn, project manager and Marvin
Dunn's brother.

The tools were worth about $5,000. There was no sign
of a break-in, and Robert Dunn believes someone --
perhaps involved somehow with the program -- may have
used a key to remove the equipment. He reported the
theft to Miami police.

Miami police spokesman William Moreno said detectives
would determine whether the stolen items had serial
numbers and check if any items turn up at local pawn

Among the items taken: lawn mowers, edgers, weed
cutters and chain saws. The only tools left in the
shed were a few manual trimmers, rakes and other lawn
implements, Robert Dunn said.

''We were wiped out,'' Robert Dunn said. ``All we have
now is a guy who comes in to do trash pickup in the
morning until we get back on track.''

Roots in the City started in 1993 as a college
classroom project, Marvin Dunn said.

Since the project's inception, hundreds of students,
residents and volunteers have kept the project going.

Some years, elementary students plant vegetable
gardens. During the Martin Luther King holiday, civic
groups and college students volunteer in civic
beautification projects.

In recent years, the program was awarded a $20,000
contract from the county and the city to pick up
litter and beautify two tracts of land near I-95
off-ramps. Those funds were used to hire workers for
the program.

Irby McKnight, a community leader, said the gardens
helped deter people from dumping debris.

''I'm sorry to hear about this. People like the
gardens,'' McKnight said. ``I like what's there now
because I know what was there before. That hasn't
happened since the garden went in.''

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

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