Keep Mississippi Beautiful, Madison, MS

More than 70 volunteers gathered June 6 to help Columbia, Mississippi, recover following a 2014 tornado. Thanks to a grant from Anheuser-Busch as well as the support of Southwest Distributors and many others, Keep Mississippi Beautiful held a community improvement day, where we worked with volunteers to plant trees and shrubs at Columbia’s landmark Woodlawn Cemetery.

An EF3 tornado struck Columbia and other southern Mississippi communities on Dec. 23, 2014, killing five people, injuring 50 people, and damaging many homes and businesses. Columbia is a historic town, and in addition to the loss of life and damage to property, many trees were knocked down, including many in the town’s cemetery.

Following the storm, many residents convened at Woodlawn Cemetery, where they found the 100-year-old trees that once shaded the cemetery now twisted and destroyed, and grave markers now toppled and buried. We wanted to help the town restore this place to its once peaceful state.

“It was heartwarming to know that people from across the state wanted to come and help our community recover,” said Rene Dungan, affiliate director for Keep Columbia/Marion County Beautiful. “We’re so thankful to our many local, state and national partners and the dedicated volunteers who made this day possible. This day got our town one step closer to recovering from the devastating tornado.”

The Keep America Beautiful/Anheuser-Busch Environmental Grant of $10,000 enabled us to purchase trees, shrubs and other landscaping materials, which were planted in the cemetery, including the cemetery’s two entrances. We were selected for the grant earlier this year to aid the town in its recovery.

“When we learned of this grant opportunity through Anheuser-Busch, we actively sought it for Columbia, knowing that funds would help this town replant many of the gorgeous trees that were lost,” said Stephanie Hutchins, chair of KMB’s board of directors and vice president of Southwest Distributors. “This grant opportunity is making a difference across the country, including right here in Mississippi in Columbia.”

Volunteers from across the state came to help, including Keep Mississippi Beautiful board members, Southwest Distributors employees and Mississippi First Lady Deborah Bryant. Despite the heat, volunteers worked a long, hard day, proud of their contribution to the town’s cemetery. Additionally, Mississippi Power employees volunteered the day before the event, completing the preparation work for the event.

Partners included the city of Columbia, Marion County Development Partnership, Keep Columbia/Marion County Beautiful, Southwest Distributors, Anheuser-Busch, Mississippi Power and many others.

We’re so grateful for all of our volunteers and partners who made this improvement day possible. We know that when we come together and work to help one another, we can accomplish so much more.

Keep Oklahoma Beautiful, Oklahoma City, OK

On May 15, 2015, Marathon Oil, along with Serve Moore and Home Depot, joined together in Forest Park Estates to help clean up the debris left in the aftermath of the tornado that passed through Bridge Creek on May 6.

The families affected in the Forest Park Estates tornado were so moved by their presence, several documented the event and cried tears of joy, giving them huge thanks for their efforts.  Flying Pig BBQ supported the volunteers by providing lunch at a discounted rate and by waving the travel fee when they learned what Marathon Oil was doing with Serve Moore!

The group was able to clean up the fence line along the property that was damaged so that the fence crew could come in and put up the new fence sooner.  Volunteers were able to gather 175 heavy duty bags of trash (by crumbling the debris to fit in the bags since the dumpsters were full), and load and haul off two trailers of debris and trash. Unfortunately, they were hindered due to the fact that the dumpsters were full, but they were able to organize the debris in several piles along the road and other access areas for easy haul off once dumpsters were emptied. They also had a crew go to a home and take down a rock wall fence that had been knocked over during a recent tornado. A volunteer crew removed carpet from a home that was destroyed by flood water. Finally, they had a crew that helped tarp a roof to prevent more flood damage with more rain in the forecast.

Commenting on the event, Joy Howard, Marathon Oil Planning Analyst, said, “This work was so gratifying and the residents were so humbled. Several cried and took photos of their own because they have had very little local support to clean up. Many said the work we did was more than the work they have done combined since the tornado!”

Great work Marathon Oil!

Keep Guntersville Beautiful, AL

Keep Guntersville Beautiful and more than 100 of our friends constructed a beautiful “Hope in Bloom Garden” as a tribute to families in our community who have been touched by cancer. The “Hope in Bloom Garden” is located on the Azalea Walking Trail located in the Guntersville Civitan Park and received extensive damage from a series of tornadoes in 2011. The new garden is part of on-going efforts to restore the park. Seasonal flowers and plant materials were selected in color schemes representing various forms of cancer.

Species with candy themed names were also selected such as Cotton Candy Camellias were included in recognition of childhood cancers. The focal point of the garden is a heart-shaped recycled metal ribbon sculpture created by local artist David Hammock. This National Planting Day Project was funded in part by a KAB-Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant. KGB partnered with the Marshall Medical Center Foundation, Girl Scout Troop 10098, BSA Troop 4173, Marshall County PALS, GHS Wildcats@Work, Students for Earth and cancer survivors which provided a beautiful backdrop along the route of our Annual Pink Pumpkin Run for Breast Cancer.

Dow Volunteers Help Transform a Playground with Keep Houston Beautiful

In March, 195 young professionals from Dow’s Propel to Excel learning and talent development program transformed a small playground at Gabriela Mistral Early Childhood Education Center in Houston, Texas, into a nature-based outdoor learning center. Community service is a key component of Propel to Excel, which introduces new manufacturing and engineering employees to the Dow culture. The project at Gabriela Mistral Early Childhood Education Center was the perfect way to engage participants in a valuable community project.

Dow volunteers painted a mural, planted trees, and built benches, tables, planters, as well as a puppet theatre. Educators at the school are using the new space to give students a hands-on approach to learning about nature. The event was conducted in partnership with Keep Houston Beautiful, as part of the Great American Cleanup.

As a part of the company’s Contributing to Community Success initiatives, Dow has been a sponsor of the Great American Cleanup since 2008. Dow sites across the U.S. have been collaborating with local organizations and volunteers in cleanup, recycling, beautification, and education events to improve their communities and create a more sustainable future.

“Propel to Excel was thrilled to partner with Gabriel Mistral and Keep America Beautiful to help improve the children’s learning environment,” said Paul Mefford, Dow global operations learning and talent development leader. “This project is one example of how Dow is living out its citizenship commitment, by improving our communities and leaving a positive impact for years to come.”

During the 2014 Great American Cleanup, more than 1,000 Dow employees and their families and friends are expected to volunteer at upwards of 60 beautification events across the county.

Watch this short video to see how the Dow volunteers transformed the playground in a just a few hours.