By LINDA M. LINONIS
Liberty in Bloom, a planting project in the township, blossomed from a grass-roots effort begun a decade ago.
Bessie Anderson said she wanted to spruce up an area around apartments that she and her family owned in the Logan Way area. Jodi Stoyak, now a township trustee but a private citizen then, noticed the flowers and so did June Smallwood, parks and special-projects coordinator in the township.
The seed of an idea that Anderson planted has grown from a plot of flowers to flower beds in seven areas of the township. The women also worked on a beautification project around the schools.
The trio has been joined by a crew of 30-some volunteers who prune, weed and plant the beds. Anderson, a master gardener in Trumbull County, designed the planting arrangements, which include perennials and annuals.
This week, the Liberty in Bloom volunteers put on their gardening clothes and shoes, pulled out their knee pads and trowels and got dirty.
“I like to play in the dirt,” said Janice Coombs, who has volunteered for three years.
On Thursday, a group worked in the high-traffic and very visible triangle area off Interstate 80 and Belmont Avenue.
Stoyak said Liberty in Bloom plants areas where there are “Welcome to Liberty” signs.
Sites are located on Route 304 from Hubbard and Weathersfield, on Route 304 from Girard, Fifth Avenue from Youngstown, Belmont Avenue from Vienna, Warner Road and Logan Way.
Planting also spruces up the township administration building and the Church Hill Park entrance.
“I’m very proud of this grass-roots effort,” Stoyak said, emphasizing it is all volunteer and costs the township nothing.
An aluminum-can- collecting project yields funds for the flowers. “I get about $300 a load from a huge trailer,” she said.
This year, she said, Liberty in Bloom has $1,500 invested in flowers.
Stoyak credited Liberty Township Historical Society with contributing $500 last year and Liberty Business Association with giving $500 for welcome signs. This year, Walmart donated $1,000.
“This project shows that the community cares and wants to have something pleasing to eye for residents and visitors,” Stoyak said. “It’s also a way to welcome people and businesses.”
For volunteers, it’s a labor of love along with a learning experience. “I think we’re action-oriented people. We’re the somebodies who go out and do the work,” Coombs said.
Marge Lardas, who’s pitched in the last five years, said the planting “is a lot of fun.”
“I‘ve been growing flowers since I was 12 years old,” Lardas said. “I just love it.”
Laura Williams, a lifelong Liberty resident, noted that she’s heard positive comments about the flower beds and “how nice” they are. “It gives the township a nice appeal,” she said.
Anderson said the flower beds include perennials such as knock-out roses, daisies and grasses. Annuals such as wave petunias, salvia and begonias add a splash of quick color. “It’s about picking plants that are low maintenance,” Anderson said.
Though Anderson said some health issues have limited her activity, she was deadheading a flat of flowers as others planted. “I hope this encourages people to plant in their neighborhoods.”
To volunteer with Liberty in Bloom, contact Stoyak at 330-759-1315 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.