Brownell-Holmes leaf pickup turns into an instant tradition

FLINT, Michigan -- On November 14, members from organizations like the Flint Community Education Initiative, Brownell-Holmes Neighborhood Association, Americorps, and Foodcorps came together for a day of service in the Brownell-Holmes neighborhood. 

Jermaine Jones, community school director at Holmes STEM Academy, said the day was perfect for raking leaves. Tucked in between two overcast days filled with rain and wind, that Saturday was the last good day for picking up the leaves dropped by dozens of trees that line the roads of the Brownell-Holmes neighborhood.

“The day started off in the low 40s and got up to about the mid-50s but it wasn’t much of an issue, we had 12 volunteers that came out. Everyone was out raking leaves and bagging them up. It was pretty great,” Jones said.

The volunteers started raking in the morning and made their way across different sidewalks, residential areas, and parks until well into the afternoon. Armed with rakes, leaf blowers, and of course, masks (which proved themselves to be effective face warmers) the troop of volunteers ended up clearing 14 lawns of leaves. 

Jeanette Edwards, president of the Brownell-Holmes Neighborhood Association, spent the week before the event gathering names and addresses of seniors in the community in need of help with their yards. She said something as simple as a quick helping hand made all the difference in the world for residents. 

“It was beautiful being together with everybody and being able to help my neighbors, you know?," Edwards said. "When they walked out and their yards were clear … it was a wonderful feeling.”

Jones said he had a similar experience, to him, it was an “eye-opening” experience. Though raking leaves is a relatively innocuous thing, he could not believe how much it meant to the people being helped. 

“It was actually unexplainable, we had a great team and I was happy to be a part of it,” Jones said. “It’s a great way to give back to the community. I know the Brownell-Holmes Neighborhood Association has always been supportive of the work that we do at Holmes and this was a great way of repaying them.”

While it was originally planned as a one-time event, Jones says he's already determined to make leaf-cleanups at Brownell-Holmes a tradition. 

“I definitely want to do this next year, it seemed like everyone enjoyed it and maybe next time we can get more people out here and do more houses and continue to grow,” Jones said, adding that giving back to the community is essential, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though he has spent the last year working in the community at similar events like Trunk-or-Treat during Halloween, he says that crisp Saturday morning and after were special. 

“There is no other way I would have rather spent my Saturday, I’ll tell you that," he said. "It was a lot of hard work but it was definitely worth it. 

Read more articles by Santiago Ochoa.

Santiago Ochoa is a freelance reporter and communications student at UM-Flint. He is the project editor for On The Ground community reporting series and currently serves as The Michigan Times' Editor-in-Chief. Santiago has worked with publications and organizations like The New York Times, the Interamerican Press Association and Flint Beat. You can reach him @santi8a98 on Twitter and Instagram and email him at [email protected]
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