In Westfield, Massachusetts, the gardener for ideas is Ann Lentini. In Springfield the gardener is Morrell Thomas. Their greenhouses are Domus (Home), Inc. and Westcarb (West Indian Caribbean), Enterprises, Inc. They are vigilant in making their organizations strong enough to carry the weight of activism, but their expectation is clearly defined at the outset. They want ideas to sprout, and by summer, to survive on their own ability to feed people.
The idea of a preservation trades center has been germinating inside the greenhouses of Domus and Westcarb. In February Ms. Thomas adopted the Old Window Workshop idea and told me, “Get out there and do what you do well. Work for your passion and good will come of it.” She is a fiercely independent gardener. The idea of preservation services as part of her business model must survive through its own ability to deliver what people need, her customers, her workers and her business greenhouse.
Now little green specs in planting soil have let go tiny leaves that will soon be the size of your hand. Buds of color on trees and shrubs have begun to soften even the starkest city streets. Soon, the high schools will empty kids out on street corners with nothing to do. And the gardeners are expecting results from their patience.
My task: Build a greenhouse for preservation trades. Give women and out-of-school young people planting soil mix to learn how to preserve what is beautiful around them. Give them the hammer and putty knife to make a living and feed their families.
By springtime next year, millions and millions of dollars for restoration of Union Station and Court Square and even a big new casino will begin to trickle-down to construction contractors looking for proven workers. With this kind of watering can, even neighborhoods with the highest poverty rates in the country can become seed flats for all kinds of growth.
By summer next year, there will be fewer kids on street corners and women will be harvesting food from their own skills in preservation trades. Old windows–fresh food.