By Emmalee C. Torisk
The blustery 40-degree weather Friday morning wasn’t exactly springlike, but several Liberty in Bloom volunteers still bundled up to clean out a flower bed on Liberty Street and fill it with bright yellow zinnias.
Those flowers will bloom in two weeks, providing an inviting entryway to the community, said Jodi Stoyak, a township trustee. They will soon be complemented by a fence full of climbing morning-glory vines.
“Beautifying your community is very important. Ever since I moved here, I wanted to make this a better place to live,” said Stoyak, who has lived in Liberty for 19 years. “It all makes a welcoming spot for you to enter your community, for people to want to move to your community.”
This year marks the 12th for Liberty in Bloom, which was founded by Stoyak, then a private citizen, along with Bessie Anderson, a master gardener, and June Smallwood, the township’s former parks and special projects coordinator.
Although Liberty in Bloom started small, it quickly expanded once others began to take notice of members’ work, said Anderson, who added that the project “keeps on growing.”
“It’s nothing that one person can do. It’s a joint community effort,” she said. “We have a wonderful community and a lot of entry roads. I thought that people coming to our area, we’d like to welcome in the best way we know how: with flowers.”
The volunteer-driven organization now boasts 30 members who plant and maintain 24 flower beds in the township. Locations include several of the township’s high-traffic areas, along with its administration building and parks, Stoyak said.
Janice Coombs, who said she simply likes “to play in the dirt,” is in her fifth year of volunteering with the group.
“People do notice this,” she said, referring to the Liberty Street flower beds. “Rather than have this bed full of weeds, these cars stop at the light, and they see flowers. It’s nothing more complicated than that.”
Liberty in Bloom isn’t funded by the township but instead through the collecting and selling of aluminum cans and through soliciting donations from area businesses, organizations and residents. Most have been more than willing “to open up their hearts and their wallets to this great cause,” Stoyak said.
So far this year, Liberty in Bloom has spent $500 on flower beds. In past years, the organization often spent $1,500 on flowers alone. This year’s savings, Stoyak said, stem from volunteers buying seeds and planting them in their homes over the winter.
Growing flowers from seeds, like the zinnias planted on Liberty Street, rather than buying full-grown plants allows the organization to make better use of its funds, said Janet Yaniglos, a five-year volunteer who works with fellow master gardener Carol Cupan to plan the township’s beds.
Volunteering with the group fosters a sense of community pride, Yaniglos said.
“It’s always nice to beautify the place you live,” she said. “I think it draws more people into doing it in their own yards, or joining in and doing it with us.”
Yaniglos added that there are many ways to become involved with Liberty in Bloom, and the organization is always looking for volunteers, especially in May and June — which is the ideal time for planting. In the later months of summer, volunteers concentrate on maintenance, such as watering or weeding.
“There’s lots of public landscaping going on by amateurs, and I think it’s a great thing happening,” Yaniglos said. “I think the idea of making beautiful landscapes across our communities is something that’s just going to keep growing, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of it.”
To volunteer with Liberty in Bloom, contact Stoyak at 330-759-1315, ext. 101.