Vacancy in my Community: McKeesport Library Neighborhood

Vacancy in my Community: McKeesport Library Neighborhood

Shari Holland, ReClaim McKeesport Ambassador

“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant — and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”  – Michael Pollan

I love many things… poetry, gardens, beauty, community building and diversity, just to name a few. Being a transplant to Pittsburgh, I also love bridges.  Gardens build bridges, which is an interesting metaphor since we live surrounded by bridges. I am an avid gardener, and have been for years, both in my backyard and more recently at the local community garden, but this is not what attracted me to be a part of ReClaim McKeesport program with GTECH.  The philosophy of reclaiming vacant land to improve the social, economic and environmental health of the community is phenomenal and much needed in the Mon Valley area. The importance of beauty and community are central to me and the idea of transforming vacant land to something that builds community and provides beauty pushed my buttons. So here I am  – a ReClaim McKeesport Ambassador – and very proud to be.

Recently in my neighborhood many vacant lots have emerged as a result of an initiative by the City [of Mckeesport] to tear down blighted and abandoned houses.  For many years I held a career as a child and adolescent therapist and frequently interacted with youth who were not hopeful.  I often wondered when children walked by these structures on their way to school what they felt seeing broken windows and falling down homes. Now I wonder what they feel when they see the absence of that.  What would it be like for them to see beauty and feel hope for this world in which we live?

There are many negatives all around, but contrast that with Russian sage and hydrangeas, butterfly bushes and dogwood trees, now that is a positive.  That is beauty added. Thinking about gardens and community building is a wonderful thing to do in the winter- it exudes light in an otherwise dark season. One of my lifelong guiding quotes is by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Bring on the light. Build some connections and relationships. Share beauty and the poetry of flowers and build a bridge to community.


Shari HollandShari Holland is a current ReClaim McKeesport Ambassador. She owns a beautiful old home in McKeesport and is passionate about making her neighborhood even more beautiful and inviting to others. She will be installing her vacant land project this summer.