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Do you love the outdoors? Nature? Gardening? Then you need to visit Downtown Greens, in Fredericksburg, VA! Downtown Greens provides a unique atmosphere to engage in the community and the natural environment around us. Its goal is to promote environmental care by preserving its two urban gardens, using sustainable gardening methods and to educate youth and adults. They provide workshops and programs such as Community Beekeeping, the Youth Garden Club, Herbal Arts Collective and the Marenje Marimba to offer the community a fun and engaging green space. There’s something for everyone at Downtown Greens. Join us for this week’s Friday Focus as we spoke to Sarah Perry, Executive Director, to learn the powerful impact Downtown Greens has on its neighborhood.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

Downtown Greens (DTG) is a nonprofit urban greenspace on the corner of Charles and Dixon Streets in downtown Fredericksburg. Our main mission is to organically and sustainably maintain our 2.78 acre greenspace for the community to enjoy from sunrise to sunset, 365 days a year. We also have many youth and adult programs and workshops where one can learn about everything from green living to gardening.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

Khalil, an 8-year-old boy, has had many stressful home situations including nearly losing his grandmother in a shooting incident and the loss of a cousin to gun violence. He lives with his mother in the low-income housing next door to Downtown Greens and as a way to “get away” he joins the garden staff outside during Garden Hours. This program, our longest running, was created as an opportunity for the community to learn about organic and sustainable practices while aiding in maintaining the greenspace. Khalil doesn’t necessarily ‘help’ in the garden. He sits near the staff picking grass and telling stories, dressing up sticks and dramatically shooing away the occasional bug that lands on him, he inspects flowers and worms. He’s outside. That’s what is important. He is away from T.V. screens and his mom’s cell phone. He feels comfortable and happy in HIS garden.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

Our biggest challenge is helping people understand exactly what we are, which is a community green space. We are NOT a space where people rent garden plots to grow veggies, however, there are a few of these in town, but that’s not us! We are a space where you can come to enjoy urban nature, to have a picnic in the shade, to read a book, to play ball with a child. We are a unique space that you may just have to see and experience to understand. Stop by during Garden Hours or drop in any time to discover the urban oasis and all that it has to offer!

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

The 21st annual Fork It Over Festival is on May 20 in the upper garden of Downtown Greens. The fundraiser is free to the public and includes live music, a silent auction, informational booths, activities for children and a plant sale. It’s a great excuse to get outside as a community and have a good time.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

There are many ways that people can get involved with Downtown Greens. Volunteering is a great way to learn more, see the space and meet us! We have volunteer Garden Hours every Thursday from 3-6pm and every Saturday from 9am-noon. This is a time where members of the community can help maintain the urban oasis all the while learning about sustainable and organic gardening practices. We also host many workshops that people can attend as well as our special events. Sign up for our monthly newsletter to get all of the info.  Email downtowngreens@gmail.com for more information.