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
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
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
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
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
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
"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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Cristina Kumka
Tin can flower pots hang on the fence outside the Rutland
Intermediate School on Church Street.