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Cahaba workers beautify downtown

Linda Harrell eyes a small tree at the corner of Broad Street and Dallas Avenue.

Beneath the tree, spring flowers are arranged in plastic containers before being transplanted into the square plot of earth surrounded by a concrete sidewalk. In only minutes, lantanas and coleuses will take the place of pansies and snapdragons that stood beneath the tree only a week before.

Harrell, a supervisor at the Cahaba Center for Mental Health, has been tending Selma’s flowers for the past three years. The job isn’t hers alone, though. Cahaba Center clients, along with employees with the city of Selma General Services Department assist Cahaba Center staff like Harrell clean areas and plant flowers.

The job began Monday at City Hall and will continue for the next two to three weeks. Two crews &045;&045; made up of both Cahaba Center clients and staff &045;&045; make their way from one plot to another cleaning and planting. There are about 80 plots in all.

The cleaning crew starts the job by pulling up the previous season’s flowers, tilling the soil and adding fertilizer. The planting crew then plants the new season’s flowers and adds pine mulch. The whole process takes about 30 minutes.

Harrell said general services’ employees will water the flowers every day once they’ve been planted.

The program began 13 years ago when a Cahaba Center volunteer decided she wanted something for clients to do. Cahaba Center clients are disabled. Many live on their own but don’t have jobs because of their handicaps.

Harrell said $1,000 was raised for a greenhouse, which was built in 1990. Another was built the following year.

Shortly thereafter, a local church contacted Cahaba Center looking for people to plant their flowers. Soon, a local bank had followed ranks.

And it’s not just planting flowers, either. Clients also take part in cleaning the flight line at Craig Field Airport and Industrial Authority.