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 Martin Beautiful, Port Salerno, FL

Extreme Martin Makeover revitalizes 25 homes in Port Salerno

The New Monrovia neighborhood of Port Salerno, Florida, has a fresh new look after 25 homes received extreme facelifts. Habitat Angel, in partnership with Keep Martin Beautiful, worked to paint, landscape, and repair homes in desperate need of restoration. This huge undertaking was accomplished with the help of more than 350 volunteers from 14 different groups.

Despite a work delay due to inclement weather, the dedicated volunteers came together on weekends from Feb. 7 through April 18 to finish the job. After devoting over 1,500 hours to the project, volunteers painted 25 houses, repaired the roofs of three homes, and made minor exterior repairs to several homes at no charge to the occupants.

“An event like this requires a tremendous amount of coordination and Habitat Angel has been leading this effort for seven years,” said Jim Dragseth, president of Keep Martin Beautiful. “KMB helps provide supplies, promotion of the event and some additional volunteer resources, but Extreme Martin Makeover would not be the success it is without the dedication and passion of Habitat Angel and its ability to mobilize such a significant amount of people to make real and lasting improvements in these communities.”

“Our volunteers and the community really came together and put their hearts into fixing up these homes,” said Hank Meira of Habitat Angel. “It’s so gratifying to see the fruits of our labors and the smiles on the residents’ faces.”

One beneficiary of the Extreme Martin Makeover was Barbara Kerstein, a New Monrovia resident and single grandmother living with three grandchildren and a 3-year-old great granddaughter. This year, volunteers donated time and materials to paint the exterior of her home, make repairs to her roof as well as an interior wall that was collapsing.

“It brought tears to my eyes to have the community come together with Habitat Angel and make a real difference in our neighborhood and to my home,” said Barbara. “Without the volunteers’ help we would have never been able to get all of these repairs done.

“My grandkids will be joining in Extreme Martin Makeover as volunteers next year,” added Barbara. “Even my 3-year-old great granddaughter grabbed a paintbrush to help!”

Valspar paint, in association with Habitat for Humanity’s “A Brush of Kindness” program, donated about 400 gallons of paint for the exterior of the 25 homes. Other sponsors included: Keep Martin Beautiful; Capps Roofing Inc.; Remax of Stuart; Martin County; Mighty Mattress; Tidy Coast Event Services; Redeemer Lutheran; Waste Management; Habitat for Humanity; Tent Logix; the Ciferri Group; Lowe’s; St. Mary’s Episcopal; Jimmy Smith’s BBQ, Christ Fellowship Church, Victory Garden International, City Church, Peter’s Hardware, JBHS Basketball, Port Salerno Church of God, Florida Power and Light, Coastal Life Church, The Firefly Group, Iglesia Cristiana Nueva Vi.

Keep Mississippi Beautiful, Madison, MS

Cities today often operate on shoestring budgets, making the community improvement work of volunteer-based organizations like ours highly valuable. We plant trees, clean up litter, encourage recycling and enhance our surroundings – all efforts to improve the quality of life for Mississippians.

This year, as part of our Great American Cleanup State Kickoff, we worked with Keep Ridgeland Beautiful to transform a small park into a community resource.

Nestled in the historic McLaurin Heights neighborhood, Keep Ridgeland Beautiful board members discovered the park a few years ago and saw it as an opportunity for improvement by adding a picnic area, seating and improved recreation features. This cleanup helped Ridgeland take this park to the next level.

“We’re so thankful to all of the volunteers and partners who came together to make this project possible,” said Jan Richardson, chair of Keep Ridgeland Beautiful. “These upgrades to Midway Park are a blessing to the nearby neighborhood.”

One neighbor at the event told us, “I plan to keep an eye on this park and make sure its users keep it up.” It’s great to see how engaged the neighbors are.

During the cleanup, about 85 volunteers helped install grills, picnic tables, benches, trash, recycling receptacles and even a pergola. Students took the lead on building the pergola as part of a Technology Student Association construction challenge.

The basketball court was resurfaced leading up the cleanup, and volunteers striped new lines, cleaned backboards, put up new nets and added another goal. Volunteers also added wood chips to the park’s playground, where city employees installed to spring riders for young children.

We can’t forget our many volunteers with green thumbs. We spruced up the park with six new trees, dozens of shrubs and flowers, and fresh pine straw to enhance the aesthetics and soil of garden beds. They also picked up litter near the park, including a neighboring wooded area.

And finally, the park got an official sign, which will help ensure Ridgeland citizens know about this local place.

We’re thankful for the volunteers who gave their time and to our many sponsors who helped us make this work possible. Sponsors included: Keep Mississippi Beautiful, Keep America Beautiful, Keep Ridgeland Beautiful, City of Ridgeland, Bulldog Construction Company, Bufkin Mechanical Inc., Waste Management, Ad Camp Inc., Southwest Distributors, Troy-Bilt, Brown Bottling Group, MMC, Colonial Heights Baptist Church, Audubon Homeowners Association, First Ridgeland Baptist Church, Mississippi Railroad Association and Ridgeland City Garden Club.

It’s amazing how we can improve and enhance places, like Midway Park, when working together. Projects like this one are happening across Mississippi as part of the Great American Cleanup, a nationwide clean sweep. More than 200 Great American Cleanups will happen in Mississippi from March to May. Let’s keep up the good work in keeping Mississippi beautiful!

Keep Highway Park Beautiful, Lake Placid, FL

Thanks to eight months of hard work of many volunteers and grants from Keep America Beautiful, Lowe’s and Dow, the grand opening of of Keep Highway Park Beautiful’s Village Green Community Park & Resource Center took place on Saturday, May 2, in Lake Placid, Fla. The event coincided with the Great American Cleanup and FDOT-Keep Our Paradise Litter Free DIH Trash Off. Though work continues, what was once an eyesore to the community is now a nice park, which includes a facility to serve as a small community center.

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Indianapolis, IN

Creating Beauty in the Circle City

In 2014, thanks to a generous grant from the KAB/Lowe’s Community Partners Grant Program, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB) created the Westminster Pocket Park on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis. Partnering with our local Lowe’s store and 17 Lowe’s Heroes, KIB was able to create an amazing community asset.

The vision for the Westminster Pocket Park is to become a vibrant community gathering place, an outdoor sanctuary for clients of all ages. Features such as sculpted benches and art will encourage community members as well as residents of the Westminster Neighborhood Services Adult Services Center to linger—enjoying the beauty of nature and learning about the benefits of native plants to the environment. Due to the large number of seniors living in the surrounding community, the Westminster Pocket Park is a “senior-friendly” greenspace where residents of all ages can gather and interact in a safe space.

In the fall of 2014, KIB hosted a check presentation event to commemorate the space and kick off the Lowe’s volunteer day. Volunteers quickly got to work, prepping the site for the functional art, and helping to plant thousands of native grasses. All of this work will provide accessible greenspace and help bring neighbors together, serving as a green destination to revitalize a neighborhood where vacant lots are plentiful and greenspace scarce.

Now that this space is complete, all that’s left is for the plants to bloom next spring, hopefully in time for the completion of the adjacent Adult Services Center, and then we will start to see increased use of the space by the community!

Montgomery Clean City Commission, AL

Montgomery Clean City Commission (MCCC) has been busy, busy, busy during the months of October and November working on preparations for the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Voting March. In March 2015, the eyes of the world will be on Montgomery, Ala., as the capital city celebrates this historic event. MCCC is doing everything in its power ensure Montgomery is looking good.

With the help of a KAB/Lowe’s Community Partners Grant, one of our projects was painting and roofing a home along historic Oak Street and providing the Loveless Community Center with a facelift. To further enhance the streetscape of Oak Street, the path the marchers took into Montgomery from the St. Jude’s campsite, 35 red bud trees have been planted along the street, also a component of the Lowe’s/KAB grant.

This work was done with the help of volunteers from all walks of life: students, military, community service workers, City of Montgomery employees, staff from House to House and members of Rebuilding Together. Just as the citizens of Montgomery are pulling together to celebrate this momentous event, the citizens of Montgomery pulled together to realize the dream of beautifying and uplifting this significant neighborhood.

Montgomery Clean City Commission is grateful for the help and inspiration provided by Keep America Beautiful and Lowe’s. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Keep Vienna Beautiful, Vienna, GA

Keep Vienna Beautiful (KVB) recently received a $20,000 KAB/Lowe’s Community Partners Grant. The funds were used to refurbish and beautiful George Busbee Park and Ruth Ryner Lay Tennis Court. The grant money was used to replace sod, trees, refurbish the park gazebo, refurbish the playground, and tennis court fence. The goal was to refurbish the existing facilities to entice local citizens as well as travelers to utilize the facilities and enjoy the park located adjacent to downtown Vienna — to make it one of Vienna’s showplaces for all to enjoy.

The playground area really needed the mulch to be upgraded so that children could enjoy the equipment and their parents wouldn’t be worried about them falling on the hard ground. The new PVC piping around the perimeter of this area and the cedar chip mulch make it a much safer area for our children, stated Larista Thompson, Executive Director of KVB.

The gazebo has been rewired so that the facility will be accessible at night for those wanting to have after-dark activities in the park. A new roof was also installed on the gazebo and preservative paint was used on all exposed areas of the gazebo.

This has been a very rewarding project for KVB as well as the City of Vienna. A special thanks to Keep America Beautiful, Lowe’s, Keep Vienna Beautiful, City of Vienna Public Works Department, Mayor and City Council for their contributions to the success of this project.

Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Clean & Beautiful Commission, Pine Bluff, AR

The Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Clean & Beautiful Commission was very honored to have received the KAB/Lowe’s Community Partners Grant for $20,000 to implement the “Safety is Beautiful” project focusing on two large, heavily-trafficked areas in Pine Bluff: 8th Street medians in front of the Convention Center and the main Post Office and also on Harding Avenue.

With the grant award, Clean & Beautiful was able to install four new walkways, trim back hedges, shrubs, and trees, and put in new landscaping for beds that were in disrepair. Even with the crazy and unpredictable weather of Arkansas, we were able to put in the four walkways; replace old, torn, and warped metal edging with stone pavers; level out the brick walks in the turnaround areas; remove dead trees and debris; plant over 1,000 daffodil bulbs, 250 irises, 250 or more day lilies, 10 to 20 azaleas, over 100 hosta, 25 ferns, 20 pencil hollies, 40 boxwood, two large crepe myrtles, 40 ornamental grasses, and the list goes on. These beds were in need of major revitalization and the efforts that Lowe’s afforded us to make were invaluable to the safety of motorists, pedestrians, and surrounding communities who use these areas everyday.

We had around 450 volunteers in total and were able to build new community bridges of communications with organizations who have never been able to work together. We had volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. Our youngest volunteer was Gabriella Ogles, age 4, who is pictured here. Her favorite thing to do was dig holes to plant the bulbs and small plants, although as seen here, she really wanted to be like the big people in helping carry the mulch! She was a true reminder of what these projects help to instill in our community and its youth, when presented with the opportunities! We are thrilled with the success and improvements that this grant was able to make in our community!