Students from both Kalamazoo Central and Loy Norrix High School took part in planting colorful flowers around Bronson Park and outside City Hall as a volunteer effort that took place on Thursday, May 26. With the help of local certified master gardeners, the rival schools worked together in harmony and finished the planting and mulching with time to spare.
“It was a cool experience being able to help the community and learn something about gardening. Helping making downtown prettier for everyone actually ended up being really fun,” said junior Hannah Pittman.
Patricia Pittman, a volunteer at Kalamazoo Planting Day and the grandmother of Hannah Pittman, talked about her experiences as a master gardener.
“About 15 years ago, I became a certified master gardener in Kalamazoo county because I love working in the garden and planting flowers, and one of the things that Kalamazoo In Bloom does is beautify the city of Kalamazoo and the city of Portage.”
Kalamazoo In Bloom is a nonprofit organization that originally began in Kalamazoo County in 1984 as a three day festival called Flowerfest. The festival was used by greenhouses and growers as an opportunity to show off their new plant varieties. With the largest bedding industry in the world, Flowerfest also served as a way to celebrate local growers and express pride in the community and it’s successful flower industry. In 2002, Flowerfest was renamed Kalamazoo In Bloom, and the organization decided to make the beautification of downtown Kalamazoo and Portage it’s main focus.
“We spend thousands of hours each year volunteering. Because this is all volunteer, there’s no money paid to us. We also have a garden at the corner of Sprinkle Road and Kilgore that’s called Humphrey Gardens and we maintain that.” Pittman continued about some of the other ways that master gardeners serve the community outside of the garden, “We usually donate between 10 and 15 thousand pounds of food every year to the food banks in Kalamazoo county.”
Many students used Kalamazoo Planting Day as a way to get out of class but found themselves enjoying volunteering more than they expected to. The satisfaction that came from doing some hard work and helping make the city more beautiful was evident on the bus ride back to school. Though sweaty and tired from working in the hot May sun, not a single student seemed to regret their decision to volunteer.
“My favorite part was being able to spend the whole day outside with my friends and meeting other people that like to be outside too,” said junior Reace Hammel.