Cutting With Care: Charitable Lawn Mowing

Project Evergreen/GreenCare for Troops volunteers help renovate a lawn for free

For most folks, doing yard work is a routine chore, one that isn’t too difficult and only takes an hour or so. But, like other routine tasks many of us take for granted, doing yard work can actually turn into quite a challenge for some people.

Perhaps it’s the older neighbors who can’t get around as well as they used to. Or maybe it’s the busy mom who can’t find time because she’s living life as a single mother while her spouse is deployed. Or it could be the co-worker recovering from a broken leg.

Regardless of the circumstances, there comes a time when we all need help with completing our chores. Thankfully, there are some big-hearted individuals, lawn care companies and local agencies who are up to the task and mow lawns — for free — for those who can’t do it themselves.

One Lawn at a Time, a 50-State Challenge

In 2016, Rodney Smith Jr. of Huntsville, Ala., was driving down the road when he came across an elderly man mowing his lawn. “It looked like he needed help, so I pulled over and helped him out,” Smith said. That one small act of kindness got Smith to thinking, and, shortly thereafter, he started Raising Men Lawn Care Service.

Raising Men provides free lawn care to the elderly, disabled, single mothers and veterans. But Smith aims for the group to be much more than just a way for him to help others. He also wants the service to promote awareness for future youth to give back to their local community.

In fact, he encourages children to sign up for the RMLCS “50 Yard Challenge,” wherein kids cut 50 lawns for free for the elderly, disabled, single mothers and veterans in their own communities. Once they complete the challenge, RMLCS folks pay a personal visit, cut some lawns with the child and give the child a new lawn mower.

Currently, Smith says they have kids throughout the United States taking part. “There are only three states [where] we don’t have kids,” he said.

Smith himself is working his way across the country on a 50-state tour to mow for veterans as a way to thank them for their service. “That’s one of my biggest projects for 2019,” he said. “I have a few things I am working on for the rest of the year, but they are not set in stone yet. By the end of the summer, we are hoping to have over 400 kids taking part in our ’50 Yard Challenge.’ Currently, we only have 350.”

Smith chronicles his 5-state challenge on his Twitter account. In early June 2019, he wrapped up the lower 48 with a swing through North Dakota and Minnesota, leaving only Alaska and Hawaii unmowed.

Rodney Smith mowed the lawn of Fargo, N.D., veteran Robert Shirley.
Rodney Smith of Alabama with Robert Shirley, a 93-year-old WWII veteran in Fargo, N.D., whose lawn Smith mowed.

Going forward, Smith hopes to have RMLCS chapters around the country. “One of our big goals is to someday have chapters of the organization in all 50 states because the service we offer isn’t just a need in Huntsville,” he said. “It’s a need nationwide.”

Going Green for Others in Cleveland

In 2003 in Cleveland, Project Evergreen started as a way to improve and revitalize green spaces for public benefit. In 2006, the group launched GreenCare for Troops to provide lawn and landscape services to military families during deployment.

“We know the spouse remaining at home has a lot to do with jobs, kids, homework, etc., “ Executive Director Cindy Code said. “The goal of GreenCare for Troops is to provide a safe yard for kids to play, a serene setting for families to unwind, and to prevent the yard and landscape from being overgrown, unsightly and potentially vandalized.”

The way the program works is volunteers sign up to help; when military families sign up, they receive the name and number of a local volunteer. It’s up to the military family to reach out to the volunteer.

Since its inception, the organization has helped thousands of military families nationwide, but the group wants to do more. “We want to raise awareness of the nationwide program among military families so we can provide the gift of a maintained yard and landscape to families in need,” Code said. “We have volunteers all across the country who have not yet been matched and who want to help.”

A Helping Hand in Pittsburgh

For the second year in a row, the city of Pittsburgh has launched its City Cuts lawn-cutting program, a free program for veterans, residents age 62 and older, and those with a disability without the financial or social means to assist with lawn care.

Operating from May through October, there currently are 1,000 people signed up for the 2019 program, per Alicia Carberry, operations assistant for the Office of Mayor William Peduto. The program started in 2018 through legislation introduced by Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, and helped more than 950 seniors and those with disabilities in its first year.

For 2019, 14 local contractors and community-based organizations are participating, up from five in the first year. The program has reached capacity for free mowing for 2019, but is accepting names via an online form for information about the 2020 program.

Main image: Workers from Project Evergreen/GreenCare for Troops renovate the lawn of a local park in Cleveland.

Karon Warren

Karon Warren

Freelance writer Karon Warren’s work has been seen in USA Today, USA Today 10 Best, Curbed Atlanta, Apartment Therapy, and Best Self Magazine. She also is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Society of American Travel Writers. Her porch has the best container garden on the block.