Service Project Transforms Community Center Garden - U of I Extension

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Service Project Transforms Community Center Garden

Service Project Transforms Community Center Garden

NORMAL, Ill. – What started out as a simple request for a donation from a local home improvement store turned into a remarkable community project that will bring joy to local children and teens  for years to come.

As part of the Lowe’s Heroes program, 17 employees from the Bloomington Lowe’s store recently spent three days refreshing the garden and outdoor spaces at Unity Community Center in Normal. Unity is a multicultural center that provides programming for approximately 50 youth from families with limited resources. Youth ages 5-18 who participate in Unity’s after school program are offered tutoring, access to a computer lab, civic engagement, enrichment classes, participation in the Future Leaders 4-H Club, and more.

Unity is fortunate to have outdoor space for a garden which has produced over 600 pounds of produce in the past two seasons. This garden offers nearby community members the unique opportunity to take home a bag of fresh produce in exchange for 15 minutes weeding or helping out in the garden. While the garden is productive and enjoyable for the students, it needed some sprucing up.

The Lowe’s crew repaired the water feature in the garden, painted benches and raised garden beds, installed a basketball hoop, and built a new fence around the garden. They also created an outdoor activity area, including hopscotch, seesaws, a balance beam, and a large checkerboard.

“We initially only asked for fence structure and materials,” says McLean County Master Gardener Kelly Rawlings. “Obviously, they chose to help way more than we expected.”

The Lowe’s Heroes program began over 10 years ago with the mission of transforming lives one community at a time. Across the nation, Lowe’s donates thousands of dollars in materials and employees spend thousands of hours each year on outreach projects that improve the communities they serve.

“As a volunteer at Unity, I kept thinking how perfect Unity would be for a community outreach project from the point of view of a home improvement store,” said Rawlings. Fortunately, Lowe’s assistant store manager Brandi Stovall agreed after visiting Unity to see what needed to be done. Lowe’s contributed all of the materials as well as the time of employees of all levels, from part time-cashiers to store managers.

“We are extremely grateful to the Lowe’s Heroes program for investing in the community and excited to see the youth’s reaction to the transformation,” said Bobbie Lewis-Sibley, Extension county director for Livingston, McLean, and Woodford counties. “It’s a wonderful message to our youth that there are others who give back through teamwork and community service!”

Learn more about Extension’s Unity Community Center online, or call 309-862-4041. University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in an Extension program, please contact your local Extension office.