By Alice Carlson

Some 800 city residents turned out on Nov. 12 for College Park’s 11th Good Neighbor Day, an annual event interrupted only by the pandemic. The event was initiated in 2012  to allow the University of Maryland (UMD) community to engage in  volunteer opportunities throughout northern Prince George’s County. The day of service, which saw eight projects in its inaugural year, boasted some 40 projects this year, including installation of a pollinator garden at American Legion Post 217, on Baltimore Avenue.

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Harlem Williams, 9, and UMD graduate student Moraynia Guo working together.
Credit: Anton Van De Motter


The team at the post raked up leaves, put down mulch and pruned shrubs, all in preparation for installing the garden, which showcases native shrubs, along with butterfly houses and bee hotels. Sean Phelan came up with the idea for the project, and Antonya da Silva served as team leader for the installation; the two are both UMD staff members. Da Silva said she was grateful for the volunteers’ contributions to the effort, noting that veterans now have a garden where they can reflect and feel happy.

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Azeez Olukose, UMD ROTC member, volunteering at American Legion Post 217.
Credit: Anton Van De Motter

“I’m really excited about this because … my twin sister is a veteran. She was in the Air Force as a flight medic for seven years … her and her partner are both veterans, and it’s really important to me,” Da Silva said. 

Volunteers from UMD’s Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC), along with Junior ROTC members from Eleanor Roosevelt High School, in Greenbelt, worked together to install the garden.

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Rosane Ndaha and Moraynia Guo working together.
Credit: Anton Van De Motter

“​​To me, I thought it was really important for Army ROTC and the American Legion to be connected within our community, just because like military backgrounds, it’s always good to have some mentorship and be connected with your community,” said Aubrey Hoover, a UMD ROTC member. 

Students from Eleanor Roosevelt High School were forthcoming about why they volunteered on Good Neighbor Day. 

“I’m just helping out our community because you know, as a JROTC, one of our key factors is community service … that’s one of our main pillars, which is what we’re trying to express to our cadets,” said Tashane Freckleton. 

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Harlem Williams, 9, Aubrey Hoover and Kamari Lee working together.
Credit: Anton Van De Motter

Members of Post 217 planted and mulched alongside the volunteers, learning from each other as they bonded through work, stories and shared sentiments. 

Samuel Gamble, a 52-year-old veteran and member of Post 217, reflected on the day. “So, it’s not quite often that, you know, we get a camaraderie like this. So I enjoy it … it brings me back to those old memories … in the Army … people get together and get things done for the community,” he said.

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Back row (from left): John Skinner, David Chevez, Aubrey Hoover, Azeez Olukose, Samuel Gamble, George Ryan, Natalie Rogers, Tyler Forcey, Rachel Dewey
Middle: Kalel Carkeek, Moraynia Guo, Rosane Ndaha
Front row: Julienne Wakefield, Kamari Lee, Precious Ngwe, Sarah Quesenberry, Anna Wietrecki, Sean Phelan
Front: Harlem Williams
Credit: Anton Van De Motter