“It has been an amazing and touching experience,” she said in an email. “We went from an idea conceived in the spring, to one rain barrel… to 50 rain barrels installed throughout northwest Milwaukee.”
The Milwaukee Rain Barrel Installation Program is a community-based neighborhood improvement initiative.
Rain barrels collect water from roofs, downspouts and gutters, which can then be used to water gardens, lawns and other non-edible plants.
The Rain Barrel Crew exceeded its goal of installing 50 rain barrels throughout nine nearby neighborhoods: Town & Country Manor, Wyrick Park, Graceland, Fairfield, Thurston Woods, McGovern Park, Old North Milwaukee, Havenwoods and Lincoln Park.
“There was a sense that people wanted the rain barrels,” said Al Luzi, director of development at Agape Community Center. “They had heard of them, knew the good they could do, but just didn’t know how to go about installing them.”
Cleveland, the Rain Barrel Crew leader, said the barrels reduce flooding and water pollution.
“This program shows Milwaukee that it’s easy to be self-sufficient and sustainable,” she said.
Some of the volunteers took part in this summer’s Earn & Learn Program, which gives Milwaukee youth an opportunity to develop work-readiness skills, while earning wages.
“The best part about this program is that you get to learn organizational and time management skills,” said Jasmine Jones, an Earn & Learn participant and crewmember. “You have to know what you’re doing.
Added crewmember Craig Dunigan, also an Earn & Learn participant, “I learned how to install barrels. It was cool learning a new skill.”
Participants and volunteers who took an installation workshop received a free rain barrel for their home. Workshops were run by crewmembers, who explained how rain barrels work, what to do with them in the winter and how to paint them.
The sense of community evoked through the program sets the Agape Community Center’s effort apart from other installation projects, Cleveland said.
“We take pride in our work because it not only promotes sustainability, but also community engagement,” Cleveland said.
“Even though there are organizations that are working on a much larger scale, this program shows that local and neighborhood organizations can engage the community in the discussion of environmental issues,” Luzi added.
“It provides an excellent neighborhood model for future efforts to look up to.”