Ruth Clarke grew up in Detroit and California, a fourth generation Unitarian, and became a Jew by choice after her marriage to a Jewish man. Influenced by activist parents who taught her that one had to take a stance for what is right, and by the mitzvah of Tikun Olam, Ruth found herself living on Nonquit Street, Dorchester, faced with a challenge.
In 1991, her neighborhood had several vacant lots that had become magnets for trash dumping, drug dealing, and ragweed. Spurred by concerns of a neighbor, Magnolia Monroe Gordon, about the serious health threat ragweed posed to asthmatic children on the street, Clarke and Gordon formed the Nonquit Street Gardening Club. Today this lot now serves as a decorative floral garden and wildlife habitation refuge.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Ruth turned her attention next to a much larger vacant lot at the top of Nonquit Street. Clarke's vision was to create a beautiful and spiritually uplifting urban space in her neighborhood. In total, Ruth raised over a million dollars to develop a public park, and the Nonquit Street Neighborhood Association and Land Trust, Inc. was born, adopting the motto: "Fighting Crime with Flowers." The result is the 13,000 square foot Nonquit Street Green, a beautiful public park where neighbors come together to picnic, play basketball, and enjoy the Nancy Schön sculpture, "A Dragon for Dorchester." In 1998 and 2000, Nonquit Street was selected as an official National Night Out site, a community partnership event to prevent crime. Many civic and social leaders, elected officials, and philanthropists, including Boston Mayor Thomas H. Menino, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and Carolyn Lynch have made visits to the Nonquit Street Green and support the work being done on Nonquit Street. The work accomplished by Ruth Clarke and the Nonquit Street Neighborhood Association and Land Trust, Inc. has served as an inspiration to other neighborhoods to transform empty lots on their streets into open and green spaces.