More than 150 volunteers rolled up their sleeves and got to work removing litter from neighborhood parks, pruning bushes and painting benches in a playground with encouragement from a local elected official who cheered them on and joined in.
It was all part of “3 for Community,” a neighborhood service initiative launched by state Sen. Andrew Gounardes on April 6. Gounardes, who concentrated the first “3 for Community” effort in the Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Marine Park parts of his senate district, said he started the program to encourage everyday citizens to perform three acts of service in their neighborhoods each week.
Here’s what Gounardes and his volunteers did on that Saturday:
- Scraped and painted 14 benches, four tables and a turtle water sprayer at Lenape Playground in Marine Park.
- Raked and bagged more than 100 bags of leaf litter and garbage in local parks.
- Pruned approximately 25 bushes along Shore Road Park.
“I was overwhelmed by seeing the initial response from volunteers who showed up to those who committed to three acts of kindness on our website,” Gounardes said in a statement. “Now we must carry it forward. This isn’t just one day, weekend or week, but a commitment that I’m asking of everyone to make every day.”
Kristen Pettit, a founder of the grass-roots group Bay Ridge Cares, not only took part herself, she brought her two daughters with her and made it a family affair. The Pettits painted benches and trash cans in Shore Road Park. “It was a most beautiful day. It didn’t feel like work. It felt like community-building,” she told this newspaper.
Pettit decided to volunteer for “3 for Community” after reading about it on Facebook. It provided a valuable lesson for her daughters, who are seven and 10 years old, she said. “I wanted to give them the message that this is our place, our community, and we have to do what we can for it,” she said.
Karen Tadross, a leader of the grass-roots group Bay Ridge Cares, said she and her members took part in “3 for Community” because they like the message Gounardes is sending. “I like the idea of putting back into the community what you take out of the community. It was a perfect fit for us. It’s what Bay Ridge Cares is all about,” she told this newspaper.
“The purpose of “3 for Community” is to encourage residents to take ownership of their community by performing small but meaningful acts of service to help their neighbors, according to Gounardes, who said he based the program on philoxenia, a Greek philosophy of kindness toward neighbors.
Gounardes, a Democrat who was elected in November to represent Bay Ridge and several other neighborhoods in Southwest Brooklyn, first introduced his idea for “3 for Community” during his inaugural address after he took office in January.
“Throughout my campaign I spoke about the notion of philoxenia, the act of kindness to one another, and that continues now as a state senator with my initiative ‘3 for Community.’ It is the belief that if we all pledge to commit at least three acts of kindness every week we will become more connected as a community,” Gounardes said.
The local pol said he wants to challenge residents to notice something on their block, in their building or at their child’s school that they want to improve and then take action. If 10,000 neighbors participate, it will add up to 1.5 million good deeds a year, he said.
It will also benefit the participants, according to Tadross, who said it gives one a good feeling to help others. “You feel like to have accomplished something. You feel like you’re setting an example. There are small, little things that every one of us can do,” she said.