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Since 1990, nonprofit Washington Parks & People has tried to reduce poverty and violence in Washington, D.C. neighborhoods by improving parks. At the height of the recession, the organization received a stimulus grant to create a "green" job-training program in communities hardest hit. They had two years to help unemployed people find jobs and care for parks in their neighborhoods.
Steve Coleman, a grassroots environmental activist who directs the organization, must hire 150 unemployed residents to plant several thousand trees and provide training in the soft skills required to get a job. For Charles Holcomb, the paycheck offers a chance to give...