For 11 years, Liberty Blooms and its volunteers have worked to beautify the township and instill pride in the community.
Beginning with a flower bed near the Swim Club on Logan Way, the idea of sprucing up the schools and bridges has evolved into 20 garden beds that impress travelers coming into and leaving the community.
The plantings also impress township residents who bring their aluminum cans to the recycling wagon behind the administration building. The money generated from the cans goes toward the purchase of plants and mulch for the beds, as well donations solicited by township trustee Jodi Stoyak from letters to friends and supporters.
Liberty Blooms volunteer Carol Cupan works at the planting bed at Interstate 80 and Belmont Avenue.
''I sent letters out a couple years ago,'' Stoyak said. ''I try not to solicit every year, but when I do, it is very well received.''
Stoyak said as the donations come in, they are often accompanied by letters.
''People send lovely notes to me and the volunteers,'' Stoyak said. ''They write how beautiful it is when they come into the township and leave the township.''
This year donations totaled more than $2,000, Stoyak said, which along with the can recycling money was used to purchase plants and mulch for all 20 planting areas.
Putting down mulch is too hard for the volunteers, she said, so it is better if a landscape company does that job. But that doesn't mean the volunteers aren't busy.
''We go out early in March or April,'' Stoyak said, ''to prune rose bushes at I-80. Those have to be done every year.''
Usually, with seven volunteers, the job can be done in one day, she said.
The group of volunteers also includes two Master Gardeners who purchase some of the flowers and also grow some from seeds. Growing the flowers from seeds helps cut down on the their cost. The group also is trying to replace much of the plantings with perennials, which will come back every year.
''The more perennials we have the better,'' Stoyak said. ''We're working on adding more perennials and decreasing annuals.''
In addition to the planting beds at the major intersections and around the welcome signs into the township, there are also oases located along Belmont Avenue in front of several businesses.
Some businesses have adopted the oasis in front of their buildings and help plant and maintain those areas, however, the volunteers provide the majority of the plantings, Stoyak said. And this year, Liberty Blooms added two more beds at the 711 connector and Gypsy Lane and at Tibbitts Wick and state Route 11. No plans are in the works to add more than the current 20 planting beds. Now the group intends to focus on the welcome signs, and keeping them weeded and planted, she said.
Liberty Blooms began 11 years ago with three volunteers, Stoyak, June Smallwood, park department and Master Gardener Bessie Anderson. Their first project was the garden at the Swim Club on Logan Way, which was dedicated and renamed ''Bessie's Garden,'' last year in honor of Anderson. Working with the schools, parents and students were encouraged to help and several landscaping companies were solicited for donations.
''It was a huge undertaking because the schools needed to be beautified,'' Stoyak said.
Landscaping was done at all three schools, Stoyak said and traditionally a site for graffiti, the Shady Road bridge was repainted with the help of students. The group solicited donations for mulch and daffodils, she said, and with permission from the Ohio Department of Transportation, school art teachers Carol Gallo and Jodi Nudell designed the pattern of maroon and gold paw prints on the Shady Road and Sampson Road bridges.
The Shady Road bridge that leads to the schools' campus, nicknamed Spirit Bridge, was recently renovated and will be repainted maroon, Stoyak said. The bridge also will have black fencing and LED lighting funded through a grant.
''It's all about beautification and pride for the community,'' Stoyak said.