On the morning of the royal wedding April 29, the sky was wide and blue, the sun was bright, and crews were scurrying about raking leaves, painting benches and lamp posts, mulching flowerbeds, and making the everyday beautiful.
But it wasn’t England. This was Allston.
Harvard turned out 80 people that day to lend many helping hands to the Allston-Brighton community during Boston Shines, the citywide cleanup effort. Staffers from Harvard Campus Services, the University Planning Office, Harvard Public Affairs and Communications, Harvard Capital Planning and Project Management, Harvard Business School, and employees with businesses in Harvard-owned property spent a half-day sprucing up 10 area sites.
“We’re here in Barry’s Corner to help Allston-Brighton shine today,” said Christine Heenan, vice president of public affairs and communications, welcoming the volunteers to the ninth annual cleanup before the work duties began. “When we come together for the 10th Boston Shines next year, you will see Stone Hearth Pizza across the street, Swiss Bakers café and the Innovation Lab down Western Avenue. This is more than sprucing up. Harvard is working with businesses and the community to enliven Western Avenue,” she said.
Dozens were on the job at Smith Field and along Western Avenue to paint the roller hockey rink, pick up broken glass, mulch the playground, repair and paint the benches, remove graffiti from lamp posts and transformers, and clean the dugouts on the baseball field.
“This is a great way for Harvard to give back to the community … we’ll get it done,” said Kate O’Connell, Allston resident and Harvard Real Estate employee who has participated in the spruce-up for the past five years.
Samantha Joaquim-Eno of Mount Auburn Cambridge Independent Practice Association (MACIPA), a business in Harvard-owned property at 1380 Soldiers Field Road, rolled up her sleeves alongside Harvard staffers and a handful of fifth-grade students to clean and mulch the Gardner Pilot Academy’s playground and learning gardens, work that the academy didn’t have staffing or resources to complete, according to school administrators.
Pausing for water and a break from raking, Joaquim-Eno said she enjoyed being a part of the effort to give back and saw how it fit into a broader context.
“Harvard is helping to rebuild the neighborhood, making it safer and bringing in more businesses, and it’s great,” Joaquim-Eno said. Three years ago, MACIPA was one of two tenants at 1380 Soldiers Field Road, she said. Today the building is close to being filled with mostly health care-related businesses. Mahoney’s, another Harvard tenant, now has an expanded presence next door that has brought more activity to the area.
At the Honan-Allston Branch Library, Harvard staffers and lifelong Allston resident Bob Alexander and his wife Paula joined forces to rake the last signs of winter from the library’s grounds.
For Alexander, who has volunteered each year, his focus was the library because it is a focal point for the community.
After a half-day of gardening, Alexander got a sneak peak at the new Library Park that Harvard is constructing nearby. Standing atop the park’s new hill, he remembered standing at the top of the McNamara concrete factory, which occupied that site more than 30 years ago.
“I never envisioned this library and beautiful park would be the place where the cement factory once was,” he said of the place where he worked for 13 years.
“We love this community, and we want it to be beautiful. Thank God Harvard is helping,” he said.
“You know,” he added, “people were mad at Harvard for things done in the past, but Harvard is becoming a wonderful neighbor.”
“Harvard really stepped up this year and did a fantastic job,” agreed his wife.