All the good things that grow on Park Street

This article was originally published on July 28, 2022.

Williamsport, PA – Neighborhood pride is something that Williamsport resident JoJo Potts feels deeply about. Community success is the driving force that keeps him going.

At the Red Shield Community Garden Party in the Pace Avenue neighborhood on Wednesday evening, Potts expressed his joy at the growing success of his venerable neighborhood across the street from Potts’ Care Home.

The garden party was held to celebrate the past, present and future of community gardens. The future is exciting with the party and the laying of the foundation stone with plans for expansion.

Related reading: Community garden to celebrate seven years of gardening success

“I look at this beautiful garden every day,” Potts said, acknowledging the hard work and love of the volunteers.

Neighborhood residents, garden volunteers, representatives from UPMC, the City of Williamsport and the Salvation Army turned out for music, food, garden tours and new plans.

Salvation Army Major Cheryl Hershey describes the garden’s “seven seasons of success.” In the year In 2015, the UPMC hospital system, when it was called Williamsport Hospital and then Susquehanna Health, “created an unusual partnership with the Salvation Army. UPMC will lease the land to the Salvation Army for $1 per year, trusting us to oversee the development and day-to-day operations,” said Major Hershey.

The trial began with a 5,000-sq.-ft. To date, through donations of materials and plants from generous donors and the hard work of volunteers, the garden has produced more than 15,000 pounds of free, healthy food for thousands of families in Williamport and Lycoming counties.

Red Shield Community Garden at Green Street and Park Street in Williamsport.

UPMC to the rescue

The Salvation Army’s director of public relations and resource development, Laura Templeton, addressed the crowd on Green Street Wednesday night. “Before the end of 2021, we are bursting at the seams, and we know we have to prepare to meet the additional needs of the community.

“People want more outdoor activities after the pandemic. People face runaway grocery prices, and there is more food insecurity in the area. But we had a big problem: We were off the ground,” Templeton said.

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Salvation Army’s Laura Templeton unveils new plans for Red Shield Community Garden.

UPMC is coming to the rescue again. A community garden is expanding on Green Street, where the health system has donated additional property for additional development lines. “And we’re bringing ‘Park’ back to Park Street,” she announced.

Tebbs Landscaping has completed the first phase of Sanctuary Park, which will be a “pocket park.” It will be a haven for birds, butterflies, Pennsylvania native plants and the people of the Park Avenue neighborhood.

Plans detail expansion to Red Shield Community Garden and new Temple Park.

Jojo Potts: Mayor of Park Ave

“This is a beautiful and safe community that has had a bad rap over the years. But it was never a bad society,” he said. Potts, 71, has lived in Williamsport since he was two years old. He chose to raise his family in the community and stay on Park Street.

“There are twelve potholes that I’m going to clean — street gutters — that go from First Avenue to Maple Street on both sides. I’m going to make sure they’re cleaned.”


Potts and the famous blue bucket. Potts enjoys the garden directly across the street from his house.

Ask anyone in the area and they’ll know JoJo Potts. Ask around in the larger community and people will know JoJo Potts. He’s so well known, he’s earned the title “The Mayor of Park Street.”

Sue Potts, Jojo’s owner, said Potts has been in a wheelchair for at least five years due to complications from multiple back surgeries. The couple have been married for 46 years and have three sons of their own and one adopted son.

Potts gets around the community in his motorized wheelchair. Rarely does he have a blue bucket and a scooper to pick up trash. Keeping the streets clean is Potts’ mission.

“We have a beautiful city, but for some reason, in this area, sometimes things move slowly.” Jars waved across the street to a dilapidated house. “It’s been that way for years,” he said.

Potts thinks an abandoned and dilapidated house like the one on Park Ave would not have lasted 10 years if it had been in other neighborhoods. He said he called the city about the property and was told there was no money to take it down.

Potts said: “They got the epidemic money, I think $26 million. “That’s where the money is. If that house catches on fire, that’s where the money is. So get rid of that house. Get off our block.”

For neighbors who keep their properties clean, seeing such an eyesore is “insulting,” Potts said. “Just seeing this hurts me.”


Jojo Potts in front of the house. It is a familiar sight to neighbors using equipment to pick up garbage.

Williamport City Councilman Vincent Pulizzi was on the affected House Committee and attended the garden party on Wednesday. He acknowledged the house is on the city’s blighted property list. “Many times, houses fall into disrepair because the owners leave without appointing anyone to take care of the property. Out of sight, out of mind,” he said.

The process of demolishing a house is long, but not impossible. Potts hopes the house near the garden won’t escape the city’s attention for long.

‘They don’t need fences’

For all its damage, Potts takes them to see the dilapidated house on the block, where the Red Shield Community Garden is the balance. “It’s a beautiful thing to see.”

“When this garden was first set to happen, people said, ‘Why would you put a garden there?’ Do they build fences?” And I said, ‘I don’t think so. They don’t need fences.’

Naysayers asked how to get rid of people.

“I said, ‘Look, I’m telling you, they don’t need a fence. Just look, it won’t be a problem. And look, there’s no fence and it’s been working for six years,'” he said. .


Sue and Jojo Potts stand in front of their home on Park Street. The couple has been married for 46 years.

“We love the garden,” said Sue. “From empty fields and empty raised boxes, we love to see plants growing and people harvesting them. It is a good place to meet people, talk, get vegetables. It helps people, brings them closer.

The garden expansion will bring an art installation and water feature to Holy Park, as well as the ability to grow more food to be shared with the community in the coming seasons.

“It’s on the block that we’re taking cities that are old and in some ways tired and spent a lot of time,” Lycom County Commissioner Rick Mirabito said. When art is added to the space, the garden becomes a destination for our community beyond just growing food, Mirabito said.

“And that’s very important because, as Jojo said, neighborhoods are going to be targeted and tagged and you have to work really hard to get rid of the tags,” Mirabito continued. “Well, this neighborhood is alive and growing.

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