Dover Interfaith Mission residents remove unwanted weeds, grass

DOVER — The crew studied the ground intently as traffic whizzed by Tuesday morning.

There was plenty of work to be done on the downtown Dover streets.

Wielding weedeaters and shovels, Dover Interfaith Mission residents steadily cleared grass and weeds from pathways on South Governors Avenue near Wesley College.

Partnering with the City of Dover, the homeless men have spent more than two weeks moving from street to street, looking to clear them of unwanted greenery sprouting out of broken sidewalks and curbs.

Dover Council President Tim Slavin recently approached Dover Interfaith Mission founding board member Herb Konowitz seeking manpower to remove unwanted weeds and grasses.

“I told them we can supply the men,” Mr. Konowitz said. “If you ride around the city, it’s a mess. It’s nobody’s fault, especially when it’s rained so much in the past couple weeks.

Patrick Bozman, right, and James Valentine work on Division Street in Dover on Tuesday. They are two of eight who work with Dover Interfaith Mission House helping to clean up the city. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“Fortunately God has provided us an opportunity to clean it up.”

While crew members are paid by the Interfaith Mission and have taxes withdrawn from their paychecks, Mr. Konowitz said the city has provided a donation to the nonprofit “that will more than pay for it.”

The eight-member crews have worked from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. four to five days a week, covering the overgrown Garrison Tract area, Water, Loockerman and other streets. An upcoming sweep of Reed Street is planned.

Overseeing the efforts is Edwin Santiago, who is no longer homeless and transitioning back into a more stable existence.

“These guys love it,” Mr. Santiago said. “It gets them out and moving and they have actual income coming in to help get them back onto their feet.

“Plus, they are out their helping their community and making it more beautiful.”

Dover Interfaith Mission House worker James Valentine sweeps on Division Street in Dover on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

There’s nary a complaint among the cleanup crew, even on the hottest days.

“It’s hard to find good workers, it’s very hard, and I’m blessed to have them,” Mr. Santiago said.

The public has responded with kindness, with residents regularly bringing water to the work team.

“That happened on the first day we were out and I got goosebumps,” Mr. Santiago said. “It’s still happening. The response has been just amazing.”

Herb Konowitz is the founding board member at the Dover Interfaith Mission House. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

According to Seaford area native Patrick Bozman, working on the weeds is good for the soul.

“It’s a privilege to be out here and just knowing I’m helping clean up the community and make it brighter gives me a great sense of satisfaction,” he said.

Maryland native James Valentine appreciates the structure of rising each day and reporting to a job site.

“Working for Mr. Herb has been a great opportunity for me,” Mr. Valentine said. “It allows me to send more money to my daughter, keeps me active.

“I work with a great bunch of guys with the same goals when it comes to being out here.”

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