“Everybody in the neighborhood teamed up to help – it was like a big family, and they just joined hands and helped. Our job was to
lay pavers, and the work went so fast we were done by lunch.”
Mike Darling Construction
Albany, New York
Mike Darling is a person of action. A third-generation mason based in Albany, New York, Darling gleaned his trade chops from dad, and his head for business from his grandfather. He started working at his craft at age 14 and by his mid-20s he’d started his own masonry business, Mike Darling Construction.
Along the way, he found opportunities to get further ingrained in the hardscape business. He started an appliance dealership and created a store, Upstate Backyard Kitchens, in 2017 to provide a one stop shop for hardscape professionals to purchase supplies.
Darling loves his work and has taken many opportunities locally to share his time and talent with organizations and individuals needing some help.
“We’ve helped with construction of monuments for people who have passed,” he says. “We’ve built patios and fire pits for organizations that could not afford to have them built and worked with manufacturers to get donated product. My wife and I are so blessed to be where we are, so we always try to give back.”
Finding A New Mission
Three years ago, Darling was handed another opportunity to give back when a masonry competition intersected with Project EverGreen’s GreenCare for Communities initiative.
“We were at the Northeast Hardscape Expo where we had entered into and won a competition, and Darren Gruner came up to speak with us,” recalls Darling. Gruner, host of the nationally broadcast Turf’s Up! Radio Show approached him on behalf of GreenCare For Communities about an opportunity to do some hardscape work on a community garden project in New York City.
“He asked for our help, and I said, ‘absolutely!’” says Darling, committing he and his crew to make the two-hour trek south to lend a hand. The 2020 project, Carolina Community Garden in East Harlem, incorporated a new paver patio into the renovation, which was easily knocked out over a morning’s work.
The experience went so smoothly that Darling was thrilled to accept another opportunity to contribute in 2021 to the Wishing Well Community Garden renovation in the Bronx.
“Cindy Code from GreenCare called looking for a professional to install a paver walkway and gazebo floor at the Wishing Well project,” he says. “She mentioned that the materials had been in place for some time, and they just needed the labor. I looked at some pictures she sent, and I said we would be happy to help.”
When his crew arrived at 7:30 am, everything was set up and ready to go, and several people from the neighborhood were ready and eager to work.
“Everybody teamed up to help – it was like a big family, and they just joined hands and helped,” says Darling. “Our job was to lay pavers, and the work went so fast we were done by lunch.” The crew stayed to help with other work on the garden.
“We even did some fancy cutting around posts,” he says. “They set aside two days, but the whole thing was done in 10 hours.”
A Lasting Community Impact
Darling recalls some of the older folks from the neighborhood around becoming emotional after seeing the big reveal of the work that was accomplished in just a day.
“It’s not just a walk-around garden, the people in the nearby apartment complex are able to tend sections of the garden to grow vegetables and other edible plants,” says Darling. “They hadn’t done so in years, so they were incredibly grateful.
Along with his crew, Darling brought his 14-year-old niece to help and take in the experience. “It was great for her to be there and to experience another part of the world outside her comfort zone,” he explains. “She talks about it to this day, the joy of helping people who really need the help.”
Darling also calls the 2021 project a bright spot for his crew during the pandemic. “It boosted everyone’s morale. “They all wanted to come and see what it was all about, and afterward everyone said, ‘this is awesome, we need to do more of these.’”
Become A GreenCare for Communities Donor or Volunteer
Project EverGreen has project scheduled this year in New York City, Detroit, Kansas City and Cleveland. Learn more about GreenCare for Communities