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Making an Old Fence a Good ­Neighbor

SOFO mobilizes community to rejuvenate ­Forest Drive eyesore


     The 504-foot fence lining Annapolis Middle School is looking better all the time.

     The once-faded, rusty-brown, chain-link fence spiked with barbed wire is now glowing night-black. 

     Three large painted metal crabs decorate the sections nearest the school. Colored ribbons twirl around the crabs in a rippling rainbow.

     After years of neglect, the Annapolis Middle School fence has finally been restored by volunteers and the local nonprofit SOFO, the South Forest Drive Business Association. Since 2017, scattered trash has been cleaned up, weeds rooted out, the barbed wire removed and student art hung on the fence.

     “It’s been a long work in progress,” said SOFO president Jen Balducci. “It just reminded me of a prison fence, and I thought it was terrible. So we decided to make it a little nicer.”

     On May 29, when SOFO placed the first section of artwork, drivers stopped their cars to honk and shout hooray. One braked to snap photos, to the angst of following cars. More walked up to the fence to take a closer look.

     Many hands helped in the transformation. Soccer coach Corey Childs volunteered his St. Mary’s High School and Annapolis Middle School Goals for Growth teams to the project.

     The hours spent cleaning up not only gave the community a “needed improvement,” Childs said, but also spurred bonding among his players.

     “We had your typical more affluent private school kids, talking and becoming friends with underserved Latinos in Goals for Growth,” he said.

    Childs explained that he was so inspired by the growth among his players and the volunteerism, that he plans to make community service an integral part of his Goals for Growth program in the future. 

     The artwork was created by a team of eighth-graders from St. Anne’s School of Annapolis as a community-service capstone project.

     “We decided to do crabs and Bay life because it is part of the watershed and it shows how humans can affect the Bay,” said Kennedy Leonard, the leader of the middle-school team.

     “This might brighten their walk,” said Leonard’s art teacher, Kathy Fitzgerald, as to why the school accepted SOFO’s invitation to contribute artwork to the fence project.

     “It’s one of the areas that is underserved in the community. When kids come to school, it should feel fun and exciting, not like an institution.”

     Annapolis Middle School was not involved.

     Principal Sean McElhaney said the school does not claim ownership of the fence but added he would send out middle schoolers in the future to maintain the fence, because its improvement benefits both the community and the school.

     Funding for the $3,000 fence project came from the Rotary Club of Parole and local businesses.

     The project is unending, Balducci said. SOFO will return every spring and fall, painting, weeding, picking up trash and adding art.

    As cars honked and people shouted encouragement, Fitzgerald, the art teacher, stopped to take it all in. 

     “It’s really amazing,” she said.

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