Every summer, in neighborhoods across the country, teens push lawn mowers from door to door with the primary goal of earning some cash. Whether they know it or not, these youth get more than just spending money for their efforts. They gain valuable skills, a sense of pride and personal responsibility, and connections to their neighbors and neighborhood, as well.
These benefits (and spending money!) are exactly what four teens on Columbus’ east side got this past summer from the Seven Baskets Mowing Program. Created by the Seven Baskets Community Development Corporation, the program used funding from a United Way of Central Ohio Neighborhood Partnership Grant to buy equipment and pay the teens for their hard work. Over the course of the summer, the youth mowed 275 times for 18 senior adults and adults with disabilities.
The grant was critical to the mowing program, according to Jeff Mansell, executive director of Seven Baskets. In addition to the funding provided, United Way’s backing helped legitimize the program in the eyes of potential clients.
“It also said that an important central Ohio entity believed in us and what we were trying to do,” explained Jeff. “This was huge.”
The mowing program turned out to be equally huge to the teens, their clients and even their neighbors. Each teen had a mentor who coached them in customer service, and mowing and edging techniques. In addition to learning basic mowing and pruning skills, they learned about showing up for a job, working hard and the importance of doing a job to the best of their ability. They also learned to work together as a team and the value of giving back to their community.
“The work of the teens created a positive vibe in the neighborhood, not only from those being served but by many who were aware of what they were doing,” shared Jeff. “It seemed to raise the level of morale in the neighborhood.”
While the teens appreciated being able to help their neighbors, they also took pride in keeping the lawns looking nice. And there was no shortage of appreciation from the clients. “The lawn care program was truly a blessing for me,” wrote one person. “Thank you to all the people involved.”