DNREC, Habitat for Humanity Partner to Create Green Space

On July 5, representatives from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County (HFHNCC), New Castle County and the community of Simonds Gardens gathered to celebrate the completion of a project that transformed a vacant lot into an oasis of green in the city. Highlighting the new rain garden were DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin, HFHNCC CEO Kevin Smith, New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer and Jaywann Saunders of the Simonds Gardens Civic Association.

A week and a half before, on June 25, Habitat hosted a “Rock the Block” event in which volunteers from DNREC and HFH joined community members on the New Castle County-owned 50’x80’ lot to plant a rain garden and install new park benches to invite residents to sit and enjoy the newly-created green space. The project was also supported by a community grant from DNREC and the lot was provided by New Castle County.

“DNREC has a strong commitment to ensuring that all Delawareans, especially those in underserved areas, have equal access to green spaces where residents of all ages can enjoy being outdoors,” said Secretary Garvin. “Rain gardens not only allow the growth of green spaces without the need for watering or regular maintenance, they absorb excess water and can reduce flash flooding, which is especially important in city communities like Simonds Gardens with predominately impervious surfaces.”

“We’re thrilled with the impact Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County has made in the Simonds Gardens neighborhood, and we’re excited to be a partner in this new venture,” said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer. “Positive outcomes will occur when we put our collective minds and hearts together for our communities.”

“From helping Habitat for Humanity with brownfield remediation on 52 homes in Wilmington, to now assisting with an environmental beautification project in Simonds Gardens, DNREC has been an outstanding partner with us helping us improve the lives of families and communities through housing and neighborhood engagement activities,” said Kevin L. Smith, CEO, Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County.

“On behalf of the Simonds Gardens Civic Association, we would like to thank Habitat for another successful project and great partnership over the years and for helping us change our community for the better good,” said Jaywann Saunders, president of the Simonds Garden Civic Association.

Last year, DNREC awarded the Simonds Gardens community a $25,000 Community Environmental Project Fund (CEPF) grant that supported Habitat’s Rock the Block events, as well as home energy efficiency toolkits and education. The CEPF grant program was created by the Delaware General Assembly in 2004 to fund restoration projects in communities impacted by environmental pollution. Grant funding is available to affected communities for projects that result in reduced pollution, enhanced natural resources and enhanced recreational opportunities. More information is available at de.gov/cepf.

The Simonds Gardens Rock the Block event is HFHNCC’s sixth neighborhood revitalization event since July 2021, with more scheduled across Wilmington this fall and in the spring of 2023. Sponsorships and grants are needed to fund the growing need to transform Wilmington communities, one block at a time, one park at a time.

Habitat for Humanity NCC is seeking volunteers for upcoming Rock the Block events. For more information, contact Andre Wilburn at awilburn@habitatncc.org and register as a volunteer at www.habitatncc.org/volunteer.