Keep Cuero Beautiful

KCB placed these characters in the park to indicate some of the goals of Keep Cuero Beautiful, Keep Texas Beautiful and Keep America Beautiful: litter abatement, tree planting and beautification. This year, we added elves disposing of E-Waste, participating in neighborhood cleanups, and properly maintaining trees. Cuero’s Christmas in the Park is a lighting display that runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Approximately 30,000 cars/85,000 tour the lights annually. The tour is free but CIF accepts donations for future displays and maintenance.

Keep McAllen Beautiful, McAllen, Texas

Keep McAllen Beautiful has completed it’s sustainable irrigation pilot project! Thanks to the KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant, and with some great help from the City of McAllen, KMB and its volunteers installed a beautification project on a major thoroughfare in McAllen, Texas. The project is particularly special as it demonstrates an innovative new method of irrigation which uses solar-powered pumps and stormwater runoff to irrigate the plant matter that was installed for the project.

The project was accomplished with help from high school volunteers, professional architects and engineers, and the dedicated employees from the City of McAllen. It represents an innovation in water conservation and environmentally sustainable urban beautification projects. “Project Grove,” as the effort has been dubbed, includes 23 native trees and over 600 climate-adapted plants on a major thoroughfare in the McAllen cityscape. It reuses stormwater runoff captured in a city drainage canal and re-utilizes this water to maintain the plants and trees planted along the side of the street.

Keep McAllen Beautiful thanks all the volunteers, Lowe’s, Keep America Beautiful, and the City of McAllen for making this project possible! We hope it helps to establish a new standard of environmental responsibility and innovative conservation in our community!

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 Opelousas Beautiful, Opelousas, Louisiana

The impact we hope to achieve is change in attitude about the neighborhood where the trees and shrubs were planted. Our project committee feels it immediately began to meet some of our community’s needs the moment the work started on this project. Simply cleaning up the litter found in this four block area was a huge start. The reaction to our project has been overwhelmingly positive from both residents and passerby. Softening the effect of the railroad tracks that run through the area by planting the flowering trees and shrubs has definitely helped meet the needs of our community to have a more beautiful neighborhood in which to live.

Keep Virginia Beautiful, Glen Allen, VA

Keep Virginia Beautiful’s “30 Grants in 30 Days” was a great success in 2013! Our nearly 3,000 volunteers worked tirelessly to make the 30 projects a great success, cleaning up 14,057 pounds of debris; planting 705 plants and 109 trees; and installing 25 gardens. Keep Virginia Beautiful would like to thank Lowe’s and Keep America Beautiful for their sponsorship of our “30 in 30″ program in 2013!

Keep Ohio Beautiful and the Home Depot Foundation Create Outdoor Refuge for Veterans

Keep Ohio Beautiful and The Home Depot Foundation visited the Chalmers P. Wylie Columbus VA Ambulatory Care Center on Oct. 17 to create a peaceful green space for veterans and their families. The Columbus VA initiative is among several similar projects funded by a grant to Keep Ohio Beautiful from the Home Depot Foundation.

Approximately 80 Home Depot associates from 14 Home Depot stores in central Ohio worked to help enhance outdoor space for the veterans. The volunteers installed multiple projects, including: 1) A paver patio with a pergola, which will be used for entertainment and education for outdoor programs and events; 2) A patio with seating and plantings for veterans and their families to relax and visit while they are at the Medical Center for treatment; 3) Two raised planters where veterans can plant and care for annuals and vegetables; and 4) A buffer zone comprised of 25 arborvitae trees around the grounds to make it an inviting space for veterans and their families.

“These projects provide veterans with increased access to new and improved gardens, but also an opportunity to be actively engaged in horticultural activities with the introduction of raised beds and planters, and have peaceful visiting areas with the addition of the patios,” explained Michael Mennett, executive director of Keep Ohio Beautiful.

The green space around the Columbus VA Ambulatory Care Center is used for a variety of activities, such as exercise, picnics and patient rehabilitation through horticulture therapy practices. A comprehensive garden program was developed to allow veterans to grow plants from seed and distribute the grown vegetables to other veterans. With the new raised beds, veterans who are physically compromised will now have an easier time participating in this activity.

“I would characterize the veterans’ sentiment towards this project as one of gratitude, and when individuals and organizations honor their service through projects like this, there is a genuine sense of appreciation for their efforts,” said Keith Sullivan, director, Chalmers P. Wylie Columbus VA Ambulatory Care Center. “With the help of Keep Ohio Beautiful and the Home Depot Foundation, the new greening projects add to our ongoing Relationship Based Care Initiative that aims to care for the veterans’ mind, body and spirit through a caring and healing environment.”

After the work was completed, Keep Ohio Beautiful held a dedication ceremony with remarks from speakers Dan Weisenbach, vice president, Keep Ohio Beautiful; Frank Graves, RPSM, Ohio Valley northern division, Home Depot; Keith Sullivan, director of the Chalmers P. Wylie Columbus VA Ambulatory Care Center; Rick Isabel, Mayor Coleman’s cabinet member and veterans affairs coordinator; and Mayor Kim Maggard, The City of Whitehall.

“The Home Depot Foundation shares a passion with Keep Ohio Beautiful to help make a difference in the lives of the veterans at the Columbus VA Ambulatory Care Center,” said Kelly Caffarelli, president of The Home Depot Foundation. “We were thrilled to be part of their efforts by lending a hand for this project that will benefit so many veterans and their families.”

Keep the Midlands Beautiful – Columbia, SC

Keep the Midlands Beautiful staff and volunteers were joined by employees from TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, and Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) on Oct. 25 at Martin Luther King Jr. Park to participate in TD Tree Days, a cooperative effort to plant new trees in local communities in need.

As part of TD Forests, the bank’s environmental initiative to reduce paper usage and increase protected forest habitat, TD Bank and ACTrees are partnering with local community organizations for TD Tree Days. The tree-planting events will take place from Maine to Florida during September and October in communities and neighborhoods in need. The native tree species to be planted are drought resistant, consume little water, help with storm water retention and more. Volunteers planted 75 trees at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, a community park that provides recreation and open space relaxation to the surrounding neighborhood. Martin Luther King Jr. Park is one of only 18 locations selected for this nationwide event.

“Keep the Midlands Beautiful is excited to receive one of only 18 grants in the nation that will benefit our community. Planting 75 trees in a community park will help the park by bringing shade, improving neighborhood aesthetics and helping with water management and air quality” said Jacqueline Buck, executive director of Keep the Midlands Beautiful.

“TD Bank is showing their commitment to our community by funding programs like this and partnering with organizations like ACTrees brings immeasurable benefits to our neighborhoods.” Buck added. “Finally, this event would not be possible without the support of Graham Taylor and the City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department.”

Keep Mississippi Beautiful Prepares for National Planting Day, Madison, MS

In the coming days, the work of one of Keep Mississippi Beautiful’s largest beautification projects will blossom, literally.

Our organization partnered with several nonprofits to sow more than 1 million flowering bulbs, the first of which should be blooming as fall nears. This effort was funded by donations by KMB and other groups and it armed 26 communities across the state with boxes of flowering bulbs, including dahlias, gladiolas and peonies.

From the Coast to the Delta to northeast Mississippi, we worked with America Responds with Love, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Mississippi Beverage Association, Mississippi Municipal League, our affiliates and many other partners to make this possible.

Planting trees, shrubs and flowers has obvious perks. Plants improve aesthetics, help clean air and water, and provide shade and sanctuary.

But the benefits of beautification efforts are bigger. They lead to higher property values and can truly transform a neighborhood.

For example, tree-scaped business districts average 12 percent higher revenue than treeless areas. When a tree is planted within 50 feet of a home, it can increase the home’s value by 9 percent. And homes within a quarter mile of a park boast a 10 percent higher value.

Research shows people prefer natural landscape to hard-scapes, even showing that urban residents dislike treeless, empty spaces. When trees were added, more people took advantage of that urban place. A study also showed that exposure to public green spaces also builds a stronger sense of unity among residents.

It’s pretty amazing what a green thumb can do for a community. And it makes sense why one of our key objectives is community greening.

We’re affiliated with Keep America Beautiful, and like us, our state is home to affiliates that serve cities, counties and even a reservoir. With 30 affiliates and four new ones about to be on the roster, our network has made a big impact across the state.

In September, Keep America Beautiful and its many affiliates will celebrate National Planting Day, an event in which groups like us gather together to beautify communities.

If you live in Mississippi, I encourage you to see if your community has a Keep Mississippi Beautiful affiliate. If it does, join in and see how you can help clean and green your community. If it doesn’t consider joining us for a volunteer project or look into starting an affiliate in your community.

To learn more about our beautification efforts, visit keepmsbeautiful.com or check us out on Facebook or Twitter.

-Sarah Kountouris is executive director of Keep Mississippi Beautiful.