Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (Indianapolis, IN)

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. (KIB) believes everyone should be given the opportunity to experience nature close to home. Turning vacant lots into beautiful parks allows neighbors to take pride in their community. Last year, KIB received a grant from the Lowe’s/KAB Community Improvement Grant program, to transform a vacant lot into a pocket park in the Bates-Hendricks neighborhood of Indianapolis, a neighborhood area sorely lacking greenspace and its benefits.

This project combined the efforts of neighbors from five streets partnering with Southeast Neighborhood Development (SEND), the Bates-Hendricks Neighborhood Association and neighborhood businesses. Bates-Hendricks leaders are committed to neighborhood renewal and to this end they launched an effort called Building Blocks.

The neighbors of Building Blocks envisioned the transformation of four adjacent vacant lots in their neighborhood into a community greenspace. They applied to KIB’s IPL Project Greenspace program, and were chosen to receive a pocket park, featuring shade and understory trees, low-maintenance landscaping and native plants, a shelter, and a designated open space for recreation.

One creative aspect of the landscaping was reusing several extremely large concrete pads that we excavated from the site’s “past life” as a utility station: these were simply too large to remove! We kept these as distinctive boundary markers on one side of the park, as a reminder of the transformation.

Community greening is one way to help empower people. With the success of this project, KIB has engaged families through greening projects, building stronger bonds with their neighbors and contributing to the vitality of their community. We look forward to working with this engaged neighborhood in the future!

Keep Lewisville Beautiful, Lewisville Texas

There’s a new wildflower field in Lewisville courtesy of a $5,000 KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant.

During national Make a Difference Day in late October, 255 Keep Lewisville Beautiful volunteers worked to make Lewisville a more beautiful place to live. KLB volunteers set out at 9:00 a.m. at Lake Park to plant 1.33 acres of Texas native wildflower seeds that will bloom late next spring/early summer. Volunteers collectively spent over 510 hours preparing the soil and sowing more than 85 pounds of seeds along a field adjacent to Trotline and Lake Lewisville shoreline. Volunteers also planted more than 180 physical plants, along the field’s edges to promote growth and provide a boundary for the field and walking paths.

In addition to planting the wildflowers, volunteers also conducted a cleanup of Lake Park and the surrounding area — picking up 56 bags of trash and nine bags of recyclables. Offsite, Girl Scout service unit 406, led by Stacey Campbell, cleaned up additional community locations in conjunction with the national Make A Difference Day and Keep America Beautiful’s National Planting Day. An estimated 850,000 wildflowers will bloom this Spring, creating beautiful backdrop for pictures, picnics, and recreational enjoyment.

Thanks to Lowe’s corporate funding and local Lowe’s Heroes’ assistance, the City of Lewisville Parks and Leisure Services, We Plus You, Keep America Beautiful, and Keep Lewisville Beautiful volunteers who helped make this project possible.

Keep Martin Beautiful, Palm City, FL

We began the Indian Mound Cemetery Beautification Project earlier this year thanks to in part to the support we received from the Lowe’s Charitable & Educational Foundation, Keep America Beautiful and many community supporters. The cemetery has been neglected for many years, and Keep Martin Beautiful felt the need to help beautify this historic piece of the community. So far, fencing has been repaired, mulch has been placed, weeds and invasive plants have been removed and benches have been installed.

In addition to what has already been done, we are preparing to replace damaged grave markers, plant flowers and we also have plans to repair an old well that is at the location. Keep Martin Beautiful is dedicated to preserving and improving the quality of life in Martin County, and we believe that this project will allow us to continue preserving our county’s history while creating an attractive, comfortable environment for those visiting family members buried in Indian Mound Cemetery.

Beaufort County – City of Beaufort, SC

This Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant Program project took place at 605 West Street in the historic downtown of Beaufort, S.C. It was unique in that it aimed to meet the needs of an individual property owner and beautify a streetscape and neighborhood. The goals of this project were to both help an individual begin to restore his historic home (c. 1880) that had been struck by a tree limb, while also creating an example for the community of how one intervention can make a huge impact on a street and neighborhood. (See video below.)

The owner of this house is legally blind, and had been living for months with a caved-in porch roof. The yard was filled with debris, including the rest of the dead tree. Along the front of the year, a chain-link fence and gate spray-painted orange to help him find the entry was accessed by a make-shift concrete ramp, poured and re-poured over time. Chain-link fence also lined the perimeter of the property, but none of it was actually located on the true property lines. It was overgrown with weeds and small brushy trees.

On Sept. 21, a team of nearly 40 people gathered for 12 hours to work on this project. This was a true community effort and included over 30 Lowe’s Heroes and Marine Corps Air Station volunteers, as well as volunteers from the City of Beaufort, Historic Beaufort Foundation and the Old Commons Neighborhood Association. The construction was coordinated by City Councilman Mike Sutton, whose business specializes in historic preservation construction.

This ambitious project removed the non-historic dilapidated porch, stabilized the side façade and repainted it to match the rest of the house. In addition, the volunteers removed the large dead tree and associated debris, removed the front chain-link fence, installed a proper retaining wall to accommodate the change in grade, installed a “living fence” planted with Carolina Jasmine and lit with solar lights to help the owner find his way. They also landscaped the front and side foundation and fence line visible from the street, relocated the remaining 300 feet of fence to align with the property line, and generally cleaned up all weeds and debris from the yard.

Because a primary goal was to have a positive impact on the streetscape, the majority of the aesthetic focus was put on the front fence and landscaping improvements. This was a significant challenge, as the majority of the front yard between the street and the house had been poured with concrete. Finding a simple, cost-effective, aesthetically-pleasing solution that would blend into the historic neighborhood was our biggest design challenge, but ended up to be one of the biggest successes of the project.

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.

Keep Bakersfield Beautiful – Lowe’s Grant – CA

Keep Bakersfield Beautiful Blog for 2012 Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant for $5,000

Keep Bakersfield Beautiful (KBB) community garden projects grow hope in the hearts of volunteers who live in neighborhoods known to struggle with crime. KBB is honored to be an instrument to transform nearly a combined 37,000 square feet of space in these blighted neighborhoods plagued with burglaries, gang activity, and graffiti. Armed with an arsenal of contributors, including an invaluable $5,000 Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Improvement grant leading the way, KBB is empowered to cultivate community leaders through the creation of community gardens. This KAB/Lowe’s grant was the metaphorical seed money to build momentum for the Greenfield Walking Group Garden and A Fresh Start Garden in Southeast Bakersfield.

The Greenfield Walking Group has been a group of concerned families and friends for several years. They started out being a bunch of moms who took strolls together with their children. They first began to make a presence in the news when they took the lead to motivate community improvements around a dilapidated neighborhood park surrounded by gang activity. They spearheaded the change and reclaimed the park as a family-friendly space. Years ago, KBB began working with the Greenfield Walking Group regularly to clean up litter and graffiti in the neighborhood. Our commitment to improving it together expanded into an Adopt A Neighborhood program, which included the potential for community gardening and beautification projects in the future. Well, the future is now. KBB and the Greenfield Walking Group hope this community garden will be a 15,600 square foot safe zone for neighbors to enjoy together for the betterment of their community.

More than 250 pairs of hands from as close as next door to as far as Lincoln, Nebraska have happily gotten dirty to make this garden beautiful. Some volunteers come for a day, others are core members who were there from brainstorming to planning to planting – all are valued, all are necessary. Some of the outstanding volunteers who are not a part of the Greenfield Walking Group are Dora, a Russian immigrant who resides in one of Bakersfield’s most affluent enclaves, has become the unofficial project manager, Dora’s star volunteer is Jason, a 13 year old who lives in a mobile home park several blocks away, and 54 blessed volunteers from Nebraska, some of whom believe divine intervention brought them to Bakersfield to finish building the Greenfield Walking Group Garden.

The Youth of Messiah Lutheran Church of Lincoln, Nebraska travels annually to do mission work, but they weren’t scheduled to do service in Bakersfield. The youth group got a disappointing last minute phone call right before 54 of them were to fly out to help another non-profit in a tiny rural town 98.7 miles North of the Greenfield Walking Group Garden. The caller told them not come because of a terrible intestinal flu outbreak. Since their plane tickets weren’t refundable, the Youth of Messiah Lutheran Church came to California anyway. They went to a Lutheran church in Bakersfield and asked for suggestions for a new missionary project. That’s how they found us. It became a news story and sponsors stepped in to support the mission work, which in turn provided a boost in manpower and funding to finish what we thought would be future phases of our garden project. Thanks to them we have creatively painted block-walls surrounding two sides of the garden; crop rows planted with a variety of food from sweet berries to spicy chilies; spikey flowers along the fence for added security; and raised beds for herbs. When the youth got back home to Nebraska, they emailed us to say they never worked as hard, never had so much fun doing mission work, and believe that God sent them to the right place after all.

The Greenfield Walking Group Garden is building a sense of community that stretches beyond its immediate neighborhood. Their love for their community and passion for a healthier lifestyle attracts an outpouring of support from the Lowe’s two miles away from the garden. Lowe’s and its vendors like Bonnie Plants and Duarte Trees and Vines are vital to the sustainability of the Greenfield Walking Group Garden, because they offer their expertise in growing with invaluable onsite visits, as well as needed products.

The Greenfield Walking Group Garden is about six miles away from A Fresh Start Garden. Both neighborhoods were pleasantly surprised to see a beautification project happen in an area where residents often feel overlooked or undervalued. A Fresh Start garden is proud to be led by African-Americans in a predominately African-American neighborhood. A Fresh Start Garden has more than 21,000 square feet available to grow and to host community events organized by the neighboring anti-gang organization called Stop the Violence.

The harvest festival and ribbon cutting ceremony was a Halloween alternative block party for families and neighbors. Thanks to this KAB/Lowe’s grant, Keep Bakersfield Beautiful was able to buy the necessary garden tools and lumber to finish 16 adoptable plots and the fence in time for the garden to open. The garden manager, Isaiah, is a former Keep Bakersfield Beautiful board member who has experience with community gardens. A Fresh Start Garden’s neighbors are key partners in the sustainability of this project too. St. Paul Church next door provides electricity and water. Plus, Stop the Violence across the street helps to raise funds and organizes the community.

Together our groups empower more than 100 volunteers for A Fresh Start Garden, litter cleanups, and outreach. A Fresh Start Garden is in the center of a walkable neighborhood with a severe litter problem – the worst in Bakersfield. Volunteers often have to clean up litter when tending the garden. The litter is a constant battle because it blows in past the fence. But the greatest challenge A Fresh Start Garden faces is earning the trust of the neighborhood in order to engage them. Stop the Violence and the Neighborhood Watch Program agree that working with a suppressed population that has lost hope in the goodness of others while dealing with substance abuse, gang and gun violence, and a lack of education makes it very difficult to draw the community to take part in the garden. Community events are a way to raise awareness to build that trust. Stop the Violence also says that many in the neighborhood lack motivation to use resources like A Fresh Start Garden rather than just rely on public assistance.

Trust is being earned though. Neighbors who have been introduced to the garden are very thankful for it. Stop the Violence and Isaiah’s Sober Living clients were working in the garden on a rainy day pulling weeds when children passing by noticed them. The children were curious and asked a lot of questions of what was going on there. The kids smiled when they learned it was a community garden. The kids asked if they could come and garden too. Of course Stop the Violence invited the children to come back with their parents. Since then, several plots have been adopted. There’s been a 12.5% increase in neighborhood participation since 2012, according to Stop the Violence

This Keep America Beautiful/Lowes grant opportunity blazed the trail for Keep Bakersfield Beautiful, Stop the Violence, and the Greenfield Walking Group to uplift two communities in need of help. This grant was the kindling to a grass roots fire. Now both gardens have the support of several administrators, volunteers, technical advisors, other grants and sponsors, and the City of Bakersfield. Together we strive to make a safer and more beautiful Bakersfield. We have much gratitude for Keep America Beautiful and Lowe’s for being there in the beginning to make these thriving community gardens possible. Thank you.

Keep Martin Beautiful, Palm City, FL

During the 2013 Great American Cleanup, Keep Martin Beautiful (KMB) launched a new project to revitalize and beautify a historic cemetery in Indiantown, Fla.

Indian Mound Cemetery is a historically black burial site with headstones dating back to the 1800s. For many years the site has been neglected, overgrown with weeds and not well kept. Dedicated KMB volunteers and community partners gathered at the cemetery and did some landscaping, removed weeds, repaired old fencing, and even installed a few benches. Future beautification plans also include replacing and repairing old and damaged grave markers. Through this project, KMB hopes to revitalize this historical landmark and make it a more inviting, comfortable place for those visiting loved ones.

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful

On Friday, April 19th, 45 volunteers from Procter & Gamble took to the streets of Kennedy Heights adorned with boas, leis, goofy hats, and sunglasses to have some fun beautifying one of Cincinnati’s neighborhood. We spread mulch at four different locations: the Arts Center, two public parks, and a community gateway. The City of Cincinnati and H.J. Benken Florist & Greenhouse provided mulch, Procter & Gamble provided work gloves and t-shirts, and we provided the rest.

Residents from Kennedy Heights were on hand to help supervise projects as well as someone from the Cincinnati Park Board. Our volunteers picked up litter, pulled weeds, edged tree beds, spread mulch near an ancient Indian burial ground and mulched a playground in just 2 hours.