Greenbelt Kicks Off Program To Foster Grassroots Spirit

Greenbelt CARES and Greenbelt Assistance in Living (GAIL) are two local organizations offering free social and personal enrichment programs that every Greenbelt resident should know about. Unfortunately, many in the community are either not aware of them or feel they are not in a position to access them.

The Center for Dynamic Community Governance (CDCG) has been bestowed with a grant by the City of Greenbelt to initiate their partnership with the Greenbriar community in bringing a greater awareness of CARES and GAIL. This effort begins with a community gathering on Saturday, August 12 at the Greenbriar Community Center Terrace Room from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. CDCG members Aileen Kroll and John Buck as well as Judye Hering and Sharon John, representatives of CARES and GAIL, will be present. No registration is required and free childcare is available if requested one week prior to the event.

The impetus for this project began at the 2016 Green Man Festival, when Greenbriar Phase Three Board President Angeline Butler approached the CDCG representatives at their table. Concerned about improving the sense of community and participation in civic matters, Butler arranged for Dynamic Community Governance training for board members, where basic DCG principles were introduced. From these sessions, it became clear that all Greenbriar residents would greatly benefit from such training. They also revealed a need to expose other areas of Greenbelt to the kind of programming and services regularly offered in Historic Greenbelt, such as the many free services offered by CARES and GAIL.

CARES was formed in 1974 and offers a wide choice of family-based services. Counseling, both individual and family, as well as crisis management for crime-related situations, anger management and addiction treatment are available. There are discussion groups devoted to the life lessons of problem-solving, coping and decision-making skills. In addition, GED preparatory and general tutoring are offered.

The GAIL program focuses on health and fitness, with a strong emphasis on seniors. They provide free monthly produce and a brown bag food program. They also offer free mental health screenings and assistance and a prescription drug discount proGreenbelt Kicks Off Program To Foster Grassroots Spirit by Matthew Arbach gram. Home care and transportation assistance is available as well as support and counseling for caregivers. For those with disabilities, GAIL offers advice on acquiring benefits and programs.

Kroll and Butler recognized that many Greenbriar residents were unaware of these programs. The partnership with CDCG seeks to remedy this. The community gathering on August 12 will be the first in a year-long series to determine the stumbling blocks to usage and to eliminate them. There may be linguistic and/or cultural challenges, as well as concrete ones like transportation and childcare.

They further hope that this partnership will have a concurrent effect on the health and morale of the Greenbriar community as a whole. Greenbriar comprises 729 units and was constructed in three phases beginning in 1974. Each phase has its own five-member board. Its hub is its Community Center, with its availability of sports and swimming as well as rooms for meetings. Butler looks to foster a grassroots, democratic spirit where residents are more involved in decision making and are made aware of the developments and problems that arise. She expressed the dilemma where only the elected representatives are discussing issues and implementing solutions without the voices and energy of the actual residents being brought to the table.

Both Kroll and Butler emphasized the sense among Greenbriar residents that they often do not feel connected with the rest of Greenbelt, most especially the central heart of Historic Greenbelt. Kroll says that this feeling was a major reason for centering the CDCG grant on Greenbriar, where the need for community enhancement was clearly evident. The hope is that this partnership will bring a feeling of inclusiveness within and without for this large and diverse community. Butler sees the future of Greenbriar not in the status quo of representative board governance, but in residents joining together and taking an active and energetic role in their community’s welfare. By combining the consent-based and transparent decision making of CDCG, the enriching programs of CARES and GAIL, and frequent community gatherings, Kroll and Butler hope a transformation will take root that can go a long way to bringing a greater unity to Greenbelt in general.

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