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AARP AARP States Maryland Livable Communities

Six Projects Aim to Boost Health, Livability

Outdoor Group Portrait Of Senior Friends

Steven Sparks, 58, who lives semi-independently in an Elkton town house for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is trying to make healthier choices. Among the hardest: drinking less of his beloved Coca-Cola.

The nonprofit Bayside Community Network, which runs residential homes along with vocational and other programs in the area, is also helping Sparks and the others it serves with more-nutritious food and drink options.

AARP recently gave Bayside’s mission a boost with a $12,000 Community Challenge grant for new kitchen equipment—including a centrally placed ice and water dispenser in Bayside’s day programming building. It provides easy access to water, as an alternative to sugary sodas.

The nonprofit is among six Community Challenge grant winners in Maryland, all given for quick-turnaround projects designed to make communities more livable. The projects are slated for completion by Nov. 30.

Bayside received the grant last summer and put it to work almost immediately. The funds also paid for seeds and starter plants in its greenhouse, where the organization’s clients—also called “consumers”—learn to grow vegetables.

“It’s a whole process of taking care of these plants, watching them grow and understanding how something that we have grown in this horticulture class can then be prepared in our kitchen,” says Jessica Johnson, Bayside’s grant and fundraising coordinator.

Sparks says he still loves Coke but is excited about the new kitchen equipment and other improvements. “I’ve been drinking water,” he says.

From gardens to bus stops

Other grants will fund everything from accessible bus stop shelters to improved pedestrian safety.

Brinklow Cares, a community outreach initiative of the Emmanuel-Brinklow Seventh-day Adventist Church in Montgomery County, is devoting its $20,000 award to building more raised garden beds and walking trails on its campus and to renovating a multipurpose center.

Lynette Yancey Robinson, Brinklow’s director of community outreach, says about 60 percent of those who use the organization’s garden are 60-plus, and some are in their 90s. “A raised garden allows them not to have to kneel or bend as much,” she says.

Anne Arundel County Transit is using a $26,000 grant to build accessible shelters at two of its busiest bus stops, with lighting, benches and cellphone chargers.

“It might sound simple, but bus shelters are kind of a big deal for folks who are not comfortable when they’re exposed to the elements,” says Jen Holz, AARP Maryland’s associate state director for outreach. “And that could be an 80-year-old woman with a walker or that could be a 22-year-old woman with a baby stroller.”

The remaining grantees are:

  • IMPACT Silver Spring, a nonprofit, won a $2,500 award to extend a walkway so users of Glenmont Forest Community Park can reach the community gardens more easily.
  • Smalltimore Homes, a Baltimore nonprofit, is using $2,500 to conduct walk audits and host a wellness expo for people 50 and older.
  • The Anne Arundel Conflict Resolution Center won $1,560 to host workshops at local senior centers to teach older adults, family members and caregivers how to better resolve conflict.

To learn more about AARP’s Community Challenge grants, go to

AARP Community Challenge for More Livable Communities

For more on livable communities

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