Empowerment Center in Dorchester County, Md.

July 28, 2021
By Jennifer Dindinger

The City of Cambridge was one of several recipients of the Keep Maryland Beautiful grant, receiving $3,000 in funding that will be used at the Empowerment Center (EC) for a revived landscape design. This grant was generously provided by Keep Maryland Beautiful, Maryland Department of Transportation, Maryland Environmental Trust, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and Forever Maryland Foundation. Richard Potter, EC’s new executive director, quotes: “We are very excited to be presented with the Keep Maryland Beautiful Grant. This opportunity will allow us to transform the outside appearance of the Empowerment Center, thus creating a more welcoming friendly environment for all.”

This beautification project will also help highlight the Pine Street neighborhood revitalization and community efforts and be a meaningful opportunity for environmental education and citizen stewardship. EC staff, students, and parents; Council Commissioner Jameson Harrington, Mayor Bradshaw, and other Council Commissioners; City staff; as well as any interested residents and friends are welcome to help prep the site, which includes removing weeds, planting native plants, and re-mulching around the shrubs on Wednesday, August 11 at 1pm and/or Tuesday, August 17 at 9am at the Empowerment Center, 615B Pine Street, Cambridge, MD 21613.

The Empowerment Center is a nonprofit multi-use facility in the Pine Street Neighborhood Historic District. Built in the late 1990s, EC is open four (4) days per week, and is a meeting and program site providing education, skills training, mentors, and support services to youth ages 5-14. EC is a beloved community place that welcomes youth, parents, and visitors in need of food and support services.

In 2017, EC Board members and volunteers planted shrubs and mulched the front of EC. In August, the Keep Maryland Beautiful project will revive EC’s lifeless landscape with native plants in the front yard, raised brick wall, and flowerpots to attract pollinators, with re-mulching around the shrubs.

Lisa Wool of Nanticoke Watershed Alliance developed the beautiful landscape design with a colorful seasonal array of plants that will beautify EC, making it more inviting. Native plants such as black-eyed Susan, butterfly weed, little bluestem, and wild sweet William attract rabbits, birds, hummingbirds, songbirds, bees, and other beneficial insects as well as butterflies, including Monarchs. Lisa Wool states: “The kids will get to see all kinds of unique butterflies for years to come, once their native plant garden grows.”

Native plants provide diverse habitat and food for wildlife and pollinators. Pollinators help create and maintain the ecosystems, while humans and wildlife rely on them for food and/or shelter. No fertilizers nor pesticides and less water are required with native plants, thus reducing pollutants to the Choptank River.

Empowerment Center in Dorchester, Md

Many thanks to the community residents who proposed and approved the idea of the EC revived landscape design for this grant. Rob McGruder is kindly donating a hose to maintain the watering services necessary to keep the plants alive. Lillian Potter, a volunteer with Meals til Monday at the Empowerment Center for the past 18 months, is donating a birdbath that beautifully accentuates the colorful garden and provides water for birds and other wildlife.

Habitat Choptank will be working with EC students to paint personalized creative artistic steppingstones for the backyard. EC staff’s future plans include backyard outdoor seating with picnic tables and umbrellas, and an outdoor wall mural. Ward 3 Commissioner Jameson Harrington affirmed: “The Empowerment Center is off to a great start this year with the hiring of a new executive director and awarding of funds for much needed beautification and grounds improvements. I’m looking forward to the Center being a beacon of hope, creativity, and opportunity for the Pine Street neighborhood area.”

Broader neighborhood outcomes will be the following: 1) Introduction of low-maintenance native landscaping to demonstrate easy care and possible interest for residential yards; 2) Public learning about litter-free yards, native plants, and pollinators in relation to the natural ecosystem; 3) Successful project used as steppingstone to identifying other beautification projects in Pine Street neighborhood; and 4) Help fulfill some key focus areas desired by residents in Cambridge Neighborhood Revitalization Plan, including facilitating social cohesion to build unity and strengthen community pride.

Keep America Beautiful lol



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