Lowe’s Community Partners Grant 2017

Thanks to the 2017 Keep America Beautiful/ Lowe’s Community Partners Grant Program, Keep Akron Beautiful (KAB) helped fight illegal dumping through beautification and revitalization of the Elaine Evan’s Memorial Children’s Garden. Formerly known as the Children’s Garden, the site was installed by Let’s Grow Akron (LGA) in 1997 by founder, Elaine Evans with the help of Keep Akron Beautiful who helped eradicate a huge illegal dumpsite, making room for the installation of a man-made stream, a canal boat replica, an arbor and several flowerbeds. Twenty years after its installation, KAB identified a need to return to the site to help address the illegal dumping and drug related issues that affect the surrounding community at Summit Lake.

Unkempt landscaping  became overgrown with weeds and poison ivy,  untrimmed trees threatened electrical lines, vines took over the arbor, wasps became a persistent problem and the canal boat replica was subject to the elements leaving it with broken wooden boards, peeling paint and exposed nails. In addition to becoming an eyesore, the site is located on an isolated road with no visibility from the surrounding streets, giving those who are trying to illegally dump or do/sell drugs, all the privacy to do so. KAB receives complaints from citizens and reports from the City Information hotline as a site where illegal dumping continues to take place. KAB litter crews frequently remove construction debris, furniture, portable meth labs, whip-its, used needles and discarded animal carcasses.

The 2017 Keep America Beautiful/ Lowe’s Community Partners Grant Program acted as a catalyst and KAB is proud to know they were able to build stronger communities via the revitalization of the Elaine Evan’s Memorial Children’s Garden by helping to beautify public spaces, reduce illegal dumping and strengthen relationships with members of the community.

Work began in August, thanks to the City of Akron who performed maintenance to the road and installed new lighting making the park more accessible and safe for pedestrians and cyclists. Advanced Arboriculture, spent multiple days at the site to trim and remove dead trees, clearing overgrown brush, vines and poison ivy and remove a section of a mature willow tree. This helped increase the visibility of the park to the surrounding neighborhood while removing safety hazards, which was crucial for the volunteer groups that followed. Next, KGK Gardening and Design donated a crew and equipment to excavate the man-made stream. By removing boulders, dirt, weeds and the plastic lining beneath it, KGK created a space that would be easy to maintain. On September 10, KAB welcomed volunteers during First Congregational Church of Hudson’s First Serve event. A group of Hudson high school students stained the arbor and continued clearing brush. The First Serve volunteers also donated a dumpster for debris disposal and over 300 daffodil bulbs.

On September 14, KAB welcomed OEC volunteers as part of their Community Connections Day, a collaboration made possible by the BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence. Volunteers worked with KAB and LGA to remove fencing, stones from old flowerbeds, and sod from a new flowerbed. Volunteers from Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, under the leadership of KAB Board Member, Chastity Duskey, continued the work on new bed installation, removing more sod, tilling in compost and edging the beds with rocks repurposed from the man-made stream. Goodyear volunteers stained four picnic tables donated by Lowe’s. Crew members from Advanced Arboriculture returned to the site to install new fencing.

On October 3, The Lowe’s Heroes team from the Fairlawn Store, under the leadership of Store Manager, Gary Sutor, began to renovate the canal boat replica, removing the flooring, benches and other places where the wood had deteriorated, installing new flooring and benching in its place. Lowe’s installed pollinator gardens under the supervision of KAB Flowerscape Director, Leah Hesier.

From the beginning, KAB worked closely with LGA Executive Director, Lisa Nunn, to ensure the plant selection and changes to the park stay true to both Elaine Evans vision of the Children’s Garden and with the current goals of LGA. Staff and volunteers from LGA worked side by side volunteers and KAB staff throughout the projects entirety.

This project has helped to change the negative stigma which has long plagued the Summit Lake neighborhood and restored pride among existing neighbors, inviting newcomers for a fresh perspective on the Lake.

Related articles:

Keep Akron Beautiful completes Lowe’s Community Partner Grant revitalization project on Cleveland.com


Good Luck Helen

By Johanna Barnowski, Communications Intern

This month, we are saying goodbye and good luck to Helen Dauka, our Communications and Volunteer Project Manager, as she will be moving on to The University of Akron’s Office of Admissions as an Admissions Counselor.

helen dauka speaking at event for keep akron beautiful

Helen says this about her transition and time at Keep Akron Beautiful, “I have always benefited from having a strong support system of mentors both at school and professionally. I am excited to be able to provide that same support that I so greatly benefitted from! I will always carry with me the pride of knowing I helped make a difference during my time with Keep Akron Beautiful. I am so proud of the work done by our volunteers! While I will miss my KAB family, I am excited to transition into a volunteer role with the agency.”

helen dauka and jacqui ricchuti at clean up event for keep akron beautiful

Helen’s work in the Office of Admissions will have a focus on transfer students, which holds a personal connection for Helen. As an Akron alumna, she is herself a transfer student and will be able to relate firsthand to students. We will miss Helen very much, but we are excited to see what she will do in her new opportunity!

helen dauka with cleaned up debris

helen dauka working on lowe's grant project for keep akron beautiful

KAB Dedicates Flowerscape to Polly Kaczmarek

By Johanna Barnowski, Intern

On September 25th, 2017, Keep Akron Beautiful dedicated our Alexander Park Flowerscape to our 34-year Flowerscape Director, Polly Kaczmarek. This Flowerscape was dedicated to Polly to recognize and thank her for all of the work she did before retiring in 2016 – including helping to start the Flowerscape program.

 Polly Kaczmarek next to sign dedicating flowerscape to her

Polly next to her dedication sign

Polly always favored Alexander Park during her employment. Besides its beauty, Polly was particularly fond of the park because it is where she married her husband, Jeff, in 2003. The dedication sign is in the area where Polly’s son, Jason Simmons, walked her down the aisle on her wedding day.

 Polly Kaczmarek and husband jeff on wedding day

Polly and husband Jeff on their wedding day

Since 1983, Polly’s work has had a long lasting impact on not only Keep Akron Beautiful, but the City of Akron. The Flowerscape program has been considered a “model program” throughout the National Network, Keep America Beautiful, for many years. Keep America Beautiful, Inc. has awarded the agency the Presidents Circle Award annually since 2003, and the Flowerscape program has always been a large part of the award.

Flowerscape at Alexander Park dedicated to Polly Kaczmarek

Flowerscape at Alexander Park dedicated to Polly Kaczmarek

Thank you to Polly for her commitment to Keep Akron Beautiful, and we are proud to dedicate this Flowerscape to her!

Additional coverage:

Read Cleveland.com September 27, 2017 Article by Brittany Nader: Keep Akron Beautiful dedicates Alexander Park garden to first Flowerscape director

Read Akron.com West Side Leader October 19, 2017 Article: Alexander Park flowerscape dedicated to retired KAB official

Volunteers of the Year – Dorothy Francis & Sylvia Martin

By Johanna Barnowski, Intern

At our Green the Scene party on August 30, we recognized Dorothy Francis and Sylvia Martin as our Volunteers of the Year. We were thrilled to present them with this award – they really deserve it. These women have maintained one of our Adopt-A-Site flowerbeds for 13 years! The Adopt-A-Site can be seen at Ely Road and Fairlawn Boulevard.

volunteers of the year receiving awards from keep akron beautiful

The women were presented with proclamations signed by Mayer Horrigan that proclaimed August 30, 2017 as “Dorothy Francis Day” and “Sylvia Martin Day.” Francis and Dorothy were also presented with recycled glass flower vases from Weisenbach Recycled Products etched with their names and the award.

We are proud to have hard-working and long-standing volunteers helping us keep the city beautiful and clean. Francis and Martin have also dedicated their time to volunteer with us canvassing for Beautification Watch Awards and Arbor Day seedling delivery to schools.

photo of flowerbed adopt a site 2016

Dorothy & Sylvia’s Adopt-A-Site 2016

adopt a site flowerbed 2015

Dorothy & Sylvia’s Adopt-A-Site 2015