The Mountain Times

°F Thu, April 17, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

One woman’s mission to bring community back to Rutland

RUTLAND - Do you know who lives next door?
Rutland's Orla Dundas is on a mission to have people in her community answer that age-old question.
She's done it, in part, by acquiring more than 100 empty tomato cans, having her neighbors and their children paint them and plant them, then hang them on a long fence behind the city's middle and intermediate schools.
At first glance, one might think it was a school project.
But it's the result of one woman's idea to bring her neighbors closer, and through that, keep an eye on the community and the community's children.
Orla is a mother to seven children herself.
"Not so long ago, people looked forward to seeing each other," Dundas said. "We have lost time for each other."
Dundas is trying to reverse that.
She started with an early July block party on her street, Roberts Avenue, with about half the city's police department in attendance.
Children and families came out for free, donated hot dogs, face painting, sidewalk chalk art or to just talk.
There, she broke out the cans, donated by Rutland hospital, local pizza shops and restaurants and Mr. Twitter's garden center, and had children start to paint - adults, too.
Later, Dundas hung the creative planters on the fence behind the schools on Church Street and has maintained them since, even after someone ripped out some of the flowering plants.
She has replanted, handed out flyers door to door about the project and solicited donations from many area small businesses for supplies including Ace Hardware and Sherwin Williams.
Mr. Twitter's is setting an envelope of cash aside, from charity book sales, to go specifically to Dundas for her use on the project.
Orla Dundas plans to paint more cans to cover the entire length of the fence - 250 cans is the goal.
She's gotten public schools Superintendent Mary Moran, principals and neighbors excited about beautifying their community.
"I'll be out there watering the plants and neighbors will come out and talk to me or help," she said. "It allows people to talk to each other."
Dundas said sometime in the last few years, people have lost sight of what living in a community is all about - being close with one another and looking out for each other's safety.
Dundas said that's why the police are so supportive of her project and her idea to get everyone more aware of their surroundings.
"A lot of the big houses around me have turned into apartments. Sometimes I see children alone and want to know that they are safe," she said.
She said the project's goal is to "unite the city, bringing all the portions together."
"We have one middle, intermediate and high school and all of Rutland goes there. That meant I could get people from all over Rutland together. That's the important thing."
Cristina Kumka is a freelance writer for The Mountain Times. She can be reached directly at:

Photo by Cristina Kumka
Tin can flower pots hang on the fence outside the Rutland Intermediate School on Church Street.