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12 Mar IN LA PALOMA, COMMUNITY GARDENS AND A CARNIVAL THIS WEEKEND

This Sunday in Northeast Miami-Dade, residents of the La Paloma neighborhood will put on their carnival masks and costumes, join drummers and dancers, and create their very own Caribbean festival. There’s a harvest to celebrate, including abundant cucumbers and kale from their own front lawns.

Last year, La Paloma won a Public Space Challenge grant from The Miami Foundation to create a string of community gardens in their neighborhood. So far, seven homes have lent their front yards to the cause, participating in communal plantings so that anyone in the area can drop by, pick some vegetables and enjoy. The homeowners tend the gardens weekly, with master gardener and resident Melila Bienaime offering guidance. Students from Barry University also developed trilingual fliers and recipe cards to promote the bounty.

The gardens, which will eventually stretch 1.2 miles along 115th Street between Northeast and Northwest Second Avenues, started as a way to bring together residents who wanted to feel more like neighbors.

La Paloma is sandwiched between Miami Shores and North Miami. Most residents thought they lived in one of those two cities, but the area is actually part of unincorporated Miami-Dade County with the homes’ deeds calling the neighborhood La Paloma. When residents decided to form a homeowners association, the first order of business was to create an identity and get everyone to know each other. Enter the community gardens.

“In Miami, we find lots of people don’t talk to their neighbors. They go to church and talk to church groups or they have their friends at work, but they don’t talk to people on either side of where they live,” said Celeste Fraser Delgado, a La Paloma resident who helped found the homeowners association. “This effort gives me an opportunity to meet my neighbors and make sure we all have something that brings us together.”

On Sunday, March 15th, students from Barry University’s Carnival Arts program, which Delgado leads, will participate in the carnival celebration, along with members of theThomas Jefferson Middle School arts program and youth from the Miami Bridge crisis shelter.

Next up, the association wants to provide each garden with a statue of a dove, English for La Paloma, so that everyone knows exactly where they live.

The Miami Foundation’s 2015 Public Space Challenge is open through April 1, funding ideas that connect Miamians through creating, activating and improving local public gathering places. Submit your idea now at ourmiami.org/challenge.

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