Captain Planet Foundation, Atlanta GA

As a recipient of a KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant, the Captain Planet Foundation would like to thank KAB and Lowe’s for supporting the expansion of the Captain Planet Learning Gardens (CPLG) Program into Ventura County, Calif. elementary schools. The CPLG program is a comprehensive and innovative approach to the school garden concept that invites schools to consider their garden as an extension of the classroom. The school garden serves as a living laboratory that is embraced and utilized by the entire school community across multiple disciplines and school subjects.

The CPLG program aims to address the high obesity and low nutrition rates among under-served children, while helping them to develop a connection to nature and a sense of place in their communities. School gardens have been proven to build an ethic in students (and often times their families) for environmental stewardship — leading to a deeper understanding of the natural world and creating a desire to implement beautification efforts at school and around their communities. The CPLG program ensures that every student has an opportunity to increase their time outdoors while learning about and tasting fresh fruits and vegetables each month during the school year — building an appreciation and palate for healthy food options.

To KAB and Lowe’s — we deeply appreciate your dedication to our mission of building an educated generation of eco-visionaries and environmental change-makers. As Captain Planet says, “The Power is yours!”

Keep Brunswick County Beautiful, Bolivia, NC

This Keep Brunswick County Beautiful project has transformed a ¾-acre, partially fenced-in rough field area in an undeserved geographical area into a fully supplied community garden that is aesthetically pleasing.

The garden area includes: 30 raised beds, including six that are potentially wheel-chair accessible; a garden shed with gutters and two rain barrels; a composting area; two picnic tables; a bench; four water hydrants for water accessibility; and an outdoor enclosed bulletin board. Some key points of interest include two keyhole beds that are especially low on water consumption and are great educational tools for sustainability; a shed that includes individual storage bins for gardeners that can also function as a communication tool; dry-erase boards inside the shed doors also for communication; and compost bins made from recycled pallets. We also landscaped the outside perimeter of the fence.

The project was funded by a KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant, with many different organizations, local contractors, and individual volunteers participating in the physical construction of the garden. We hope that our project will aid local residents in areas of community pride, healthy nutrition, movement for healthy lifestyles, supplying local food pantries with fresh produce, and social interaction and integrative activities.

The community has been extremely positive about the project. People have personally told us that they used to “just not drive in that area.” Now they do so purposefully, just to look at the garden. One person said it makes her feel happy when she drives by. When we are working in the garden, an increasing number of people just stop by to chat or ask questions or request information. It is extremely rewarding. I have also seen neighboring properties taking more pride in the appearance of their yards and homes.

Orange County Coastkeeper, Costa Mesa, CA

Thanks to a KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant, Orange County Coastkeeper opened the Coastkeeper Garden, a demonstration garden featuring six native plant communities, drought-tolerant vegetation, and a natural playground. The grant helped us establish an active docent program, launch a series of free workshops, and complete construction on our natural playground. The garden sits on a parcel of land behind a community college that was previously vacant, untended and unused. The space is now flourishing and vibrant, helping to connect youth to the natural environment and inspiring local residents how to save water and reduce water pollution.

The natural playground, in particular, has been a positive and meaningful addition to the community, providing a unique venue for children to play and explore. We’ve had hundreds of young visitors come to enjoy the deer grass maze, willow tree tunnel, and log pathways. We’ve also hosted a number of events designed to promote nature connection and creativity, including adobe brick building, pumpkin painting, and for older kids, making succulent arrangements.

Our sustainable landscaping workshop series has had a great start. These hands-on workshops are offered free of charge, and inspire local residents to plan, design, and maintain their own drought-tolerant gardens. Our vision is that every visitor to the garden will carry away the message that water and energy conservation can be simple, cost-efficient, low-maintenance, and beautiful.

GET (Green Explorer Trails) Outdoors in Houston, TX

We were thrilled to find out that Lantrip Elementary and Lantrip Blooms (our parent support group) was awarded a $20,000 Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant. We were the only elementary school out of the entire list of grant recipients. We felt honored and overwhelmed at the task that lay ahead!

Our aim was to engage students and adults in outdoor activities by having many visible and intriguing outdoor projects. We wanted to bring nature into an urban area. Our greatest success is that the Lantrip campus has been entirely transformed. The mulch trails and decomposed granite paths we created help to clearly define the space and better frame its features. Huge cypress trees that were barely noticed now stand out and line the pathway. The path is about one-quarter of a mile; they’re used almost daily because our students participate in Marathon Kids (they complete 26 miles over the course of six months). The 12 raised garden beds are symmetrically placed in a grid and sit on top of a decomposed granite pad that also serves as a new outdoor classroom. We now have two areas of outdoor seating with picnic benches. Our goal is to line the pathways with interactive learning stations where the children can explore various aspects of environmental science and connect to the outdoors with more information through signage and QR codes.

Our project generated enthusiasm and engaged more parents at Lantrip than ever before. Historically, the PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) had been largely dysfunctional and had alienated parents. The GET Outdoors project demonstrated to parents that our parent support group had changed, and being awarded this grant clearly signaled this to the entire school. Even more than that, the successful implementation of this grant had generated enthusiasm in nearby schools and created enthusiasm far beyond the Lantrip community. Many partners participated in the implementation of this grant including: the USDA Forest Service, The Friends of the National Forests and Grasslands of Texas, The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, Texas A&M Forest Service and Agrilife. Our newest partner, the Lowe’s Heroes, volunteered in rain and mud; their contribution to this project was indispensable.

There remain several small tasks to complete, but the overall vision of this project was actualized. The buzz this project created locally was likened to the momentum of a runaway train, by Houston Independent School District Board Member Juliet Stipeche. She also mentioned that this project was unlike anything in recent memory. This project has brought together the entire community and encouraged other area schools to try their hand at grant writing and to participate in ongoing “green” efforts. Additionally, our school and several other East End schools are being tested as a pilot model for the USDA Forest Service GreenSchools! to create a Greenbelt of participating area schools. The KAB/Lowe’s grant facilitated the progression of all these projects.

Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, Tampa, FL

The Florida Learning Garden, a project of Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful (KTBB) in partnership with the Florida State Fairgrounds, is a permanent one-acre interactive educational experience. From ‘right-plant, right-place’ to best practices for water conservation, the Florida Learning Garden educates residents on multiple growing techniques and sustainable practices to utilize in their own homes and gardens.

Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful was proud to partner with Lowe’s for a grant assisting with completion of several Phase II projects at the Florida Learning Garden. The garden is unique in that it reaches a wide scope of people through its accessible location and multiple community partnerships. By housing donated plants and starter seedlings in our greenhouse and storing extra tools and supplies at the garden, KTBB will continue to support the efforts of community gardens throughout the area.

So much growth has happened in the garden during the past few months, thanks to the Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant! The soil on the site lacked nutrients, so funding for mulch, garden soil, and fertilizer has been vital in creating the overall success of edible crops at the garden.

In April 2013, KTBB held a KAB National Day of Action on the site, during which 44 trees were planted. Teams of volunteers from the surrounding community and universities picked up their shovels and set to work digging, planting, mulching and watering the beautiful fruit trees to line the garden. KTBB also partnered with the Home Builder’s Institute (HBI), an organization that teaches construction skills to at-risk or previously incarcerated individuals. Part of the grant funding enabled us to purchase building supplies so that HBI volunteers could build four workbenches for the greenhouse to provide a workspace for educational programs for youth visiting the site. Kids are now able to line the tables in the greenhouse and see, touch and smell the plants, as well as plant their own seedlings to take home.

On Oct. 19, local Lowe’s Heroes volunteers came to the Florida Learning Garden to construct a gazebo and install a butterfly garden on the property. The implementation of this beautiful structure was by far one of the most creative and greatest successes at the garden so far! The addition of a second butterfly garden by another volunteer group has created a new home for a host of butterfly species, and the rainbow of native flower species has created a flourishing, inviting space for both kids and adults.

Finally, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful is thrilled that our 20 grow beds are now filled to the brim with winter crop vegetables! After re-planting in October, the first batch of produce has been successfully harvested and donated to a local charity to provide nutrition for homeless teens. We are so pleased to be giving back to our community in meaningful ways, and believe this site will help create new individuals stewards for the environment in our community.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful received a KAB-Lowe’s grant for $20,000 to build 4 new community gardens, upgrade an existing greenhouse to create revenue to sustain a total of 7 community gardens, purchase a trailer to assist with transportation, and provide technical assistance for community gardening efforts in the City of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. This project was in collaboration with Lift Johnstown and Sandyvale Memorial Gardens and Conservancy (Sandyvale). From April thru December 2013, 192 volunteers donated 1,213 hours of their time to this exciting project. Volunteer groups for the project included: Lowe’s Heroes from the Johnstown store, Sandyvale Memorial Gardens and Conservancy, the F.A.I.T.H. Group, Stuver’s Riverside Nursery, Hiram G Andrews, Pine Springs Camp, JUMP/Johnstown United Methodist Parish Organization, Youth Conference Ministries-The Great Escape, Natural Biodiversity, The Johnstown Tomahawks Ice Hockey Team, Bishop McCort High School, and Danchanko Construction.

Keep Charleston Beautiful, Charleston, South Carolina

The Green Heart Project is a community-based volunteer organization that integrates school farms as outdoor classrooms in an effort to teach students the virtues of hard work, respect and success and reiterate classroom curriculum while connecting students and volunteers to fresh, healthy, locally-grown produce. The City of Charleston’s Keep Charleston Beautiful is dedicated to promoting a cleaner more beautiful Charleston through education, awareness, and community involvement. In 2013, these two groups came together through a Lowe’s grant to improve a school based garden in the heart of Downtown Charleston.
The Green Heart Project was founded in 2009 with its pilot garden built with students and volunteers at Mitchell Elementary School in downtown Charleston. Over the past 5 years, the garden has grown from 5 small raised beds in the schoolyard to encompass over 12,000 ft of garden space, including a 5,500 ft vegetable garden, a native species and herb garden, and a 35 tree fruit orchard including citrus, papaya, figs, pomegranate and blueberries. The garden is utilized by the entire school as outdoor learning laboratory where students, alongside volunteer mentors, partake in every part of the growing cycle, from seed, to harvest, to tasting!
Although the entire garden functions as a an outdoor learning space, one component has been on the wish list for many years, an outdoor classroom – a covered place for our students, teachers and volunteers to gather to discuss the concepts taught between the vegetable rows. Working in conjunction with the Keep Charleston Beautiful, an affiliate of KAB, the Green Heart Project was able to secure funding and volunteers through a Lowe’s Charitable & Education Foundation grant to build and install not only a beautiful outdoor classroom complete with benches and tables, but also a 1500 gallon cistern to harvest all of the rain captured on the roof. The rain-water harvesting system will not only function to help irrigate the surrounding garden beds, but will be a lesson in and of itself teaching sustainable gardening practices and touch on the importance of sustainability in the times of today. Even though the community volunteer day landed on one of the coldest and windiest days this year, a small group of dedicated, hard working volunteers came out to help. Though they could not feel their fingers or faces, a lot of progress was made and the outdoor garden classroom began to take shape.
Our Farm-to-School program at Mitchell, students are ecstatic to begin using the outdoor classroom in the spring season of 2014 and are grateful for the partnership and volunteers at KAB and Lowe’s for their support and help in making our outdoor classroom a reality! Volunteers from Keep Charleston Beautiful and local Lowe’s stores are invited to continue working with the Green Heart team and the school garden throughout the year. This is an ongoing, ever growing, project that brings the students and community together.

Keep Luna County Beautiful, Deming, NM

Keep Luna County Beautiful received a $5,000 grant from Lowe’s /KAB Community Improvement Grant. With the grant, Keep Luna County Beautiful was able to start an Outdoor Classroom in the community. The students were able to enjoy learning how to plant and care for a garden. Many of the students attended our cooking classes where they could learn how to use the produce they grew in very tasty meals. The students learned life skills that they could take back home and teach to their families. This has a major impact to our community due to our area being close to the border and many families have difficulty paying for fresh produce to feed their families. Thank you to Lowe’s and Keep America Beautiful for the opportunity to start this project in our community.