In the early 2000s, the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore underwent a redevelopment and revitalization as the result of collaboration among the State of Maryland, Habitat for Humanity, and strong community leaders. An anchor to this project was the New Song Center on Pressman Street – a combined K-8 public school and 28,000 square foot community learning center, meeting place and sports facility.
The New Song Center was dedicated in April 2001. In October 2003, Guilford Garden Club members met with Sandtown Community leader Allan Tibbels and New Song principal Susan Tibbels, the combined force behind New Song, to explore a partnership. Over the next six years, GGC was a consistent supporter and presence at the Academy.
Prior to the summer of 2004, the narrow outdoor area of the campus was limited to a promising row of multi-trunked Redbud trees and small grassy area crossed by a bluestone path with soil described by GGC members as “a baked brick of clay and trash.” Working with a passionate science teacher, GGC members designed “The Wildlife Habitat Garden” with goals of attracting birds and beneficial insects to campus and slowing stormwater runoff. The garden was used for education as well as for pleasure, not only for the school community, but also for neighbors, who could view the garden from the street and alley. Installation was performed by students, teachers, volunteers, and GGC members. The result was a beautiful oasis of native Maryland plants. Financing for the garden design and planting was provided by GGC and The Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
GGC continued to visit New Song for years, during every season, working side by side with the school community to care for and enjoy the garden. In early winter, GGC members harvested greens and dried plant materials from their own gardens to share at a festive celebration held in the school’s greenhouse and classrooms. GGC members worked with every student to make a Christmas decoration to take home. A special relationship developed between the communities, with students expressing their thanks through handwritten and drawn cards.
In 2006, GGC received the Youth Involvement and Development Award from The Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland for its educational success at New Song.