Wednesday, August 19, 2009

‘Weed and Seed' program reaps rewards for neighborhood - Gazette

Community strives to keep program alive

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009

Within a cramped, two-bedroom apartment in the 848 building of the Northwest Park apartments in Silver Spring, a community plants its seeds and watches them grow.

In the living room, 10 young children sit at two small tables working diligently on arts and crafts. In a bedroom, eight teenage boys play video games and surf news Web sites on three computers, often bumping into each other in the close quarters.

The apartment has been converted into a YMCA of Metropolitan Washington community center, staffed by homegrown mentors and supervisors from the neighborhood. It's one of the many programs that receive funding from the Northwest Park/Oak View Weed and Seed program, which strives to tackle the crime, poverty and safety problems that have long plagued the area.

Each of the roughly 300 Weed and Seed programs nationwide is allotted $1 million over a five-year span. But many community-based nonprofit programs faced with the economic downturn have seen their budgets dwindle, and Weed and Seed has been hit by the economy as well, said Victor Salazar, the site coordinator for Northwest Park's program, which is the only Weed and Seed in the county and among four in the state.

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