By Jody Steinberg

Three-year-old Alden Gilbert adds a bit of trucking muscle to the cleanup and landscaping work at Lynwood Park. Volunteers from the neighborhood and from Oglethorpe University joined a Hands On Atlanta work day by fixing up the area.

Bags of bottles, cans and trash and piles of branches and yard waste piled up in front of Lynwood Recreation Center last Saturday as more than 50 volunteers came to spruce up the aging park and recreation center at the heart of one of DeKalb County’s most rapidly changing neighborhoods.

Oglethorpe University’s Center for Civic Engagement, Friends of Lynwood Park and Park Pride united to mulch, rake, weed, trim, clean and clear the paths and open spaces of the 17-acre park’s paths, fields and playground on Oct. 2 during a Hands On Atlanta volunteer workday.

Including Lynwood, Oglethorpe sent 85 students – and a few parents – to five Hands On Atlanta Day locations.

For junior Cassie Hendrix, Lynwood was the only choice.

“I am passionate about volunteering and passionate about Lynwood Park,” Hendrix said.

Hendrix, whose scholarship requires in-depth volunteering throughout college, noted the changes she’s seen since the many hours she spent at Lynwood’s after-school fprogram her freshman year.

“The neighborhood is changing drastically,” she said. “The juxtaposition between the older houses versus the enormous new houses is startling. There are still lots of kids from lower income homes who need the programs here, but there are also a lot more people outside in the park.”

“If you make it nicer, people will come,” said Friends of Lynwood Park founder Jamie Gordon.

Tucked away near the western end of Osborne Road, the Lynwood Park community is a mixture of modest, aging houses surrounded by massive new infill houses.

Children who live at or near the poverty level are served by after-school programs in the recreation center, affluent new homeowners are attracted to the park, playground and public pool. Eager to renew Lynwood’s role as a community center, families recently formed the Friends of Lynwood Park, donating time and money to improve the public space.

Volunteers spread mulch during the Hands On Atlanta Day cleanup of Lynwood Park. Workers mulched, raked, weeded, trimmed, cleaned and cleared paths and open spaces in the 17-acre greenspace near Osborne Road.

“It’s all about getting the community involved,” Gordon said.

The organization, which focused on beautification for the first project so more neighbors will use the park and become supporters, is working with county planners to develop a long-term improvement plan and Park Pride, which supplied the tools, expertise and volunteers for the work day.

On Oct.24, volunteers from Jewish Family & Career Services PALS program will join members of the friends organization for an improvement project painting outside areas.

“We help organize local leaders to plan projects, raise funds and keep an eye on the park,” explained John Ahern, volunteer coordinator for Park Pride.

While Park Pride has worked within the city of Atlanta since the 1980s, the organization only recently joined with DeKalb County to promote citizen involvement in DeKalb parks.