Donations boost Willistons In Bloom program (6/4/09)

Money still needed to pay for plantings

June 4, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Citizens chipped in with numerous small donations following publicity about a town beautification program’s fundraising struggles.


    Courtesy photo by June Jones
Mollie Bendzunas prepares a hanging flower basket at Gardener’s Supply in Williston last Thursday. Bendzunas was working with the Williston In Bloom committee and Vermont Master Gardeners to plant 21 baskets that are now on display in Williston Village and on Marshall Avenue.

Williston In Bloom received just over $600 in donations after an article printed in the Observer last month detailed the organization’s money crunch. The story reported the group had yet to receive any contributions this year.

A total of 17 donations were made following the story, said Kim Richburg, a Williston Public Works Department employee who has been tracking the contributions. The smallest donation has been $15; the largest, $100. Adams Farm Market contributed $250 worth of perennials.

Williston In Bloom will likely concentrate on trying to match rather than exceed last year’s efforts, said Sue Stanne, the organization’s co-chairwoman. The organization each year tries to expand its plantings.

The new contributions, along with leftover materials and a small reserve fund, will help bolster the work. Stanne said Williston In Bloom will focus on placing hanging baskets on U.S. 2 and filling in previously planted beds in the village and around Taft Corners.

Stanne said she often hears how pretty the town looks with all the flowers sprouting each spring. So it was letdown to learn that fundraising effort tanked this year amid the recession.

“It’s kind of like — but not quite — being told Christmas isn’t coming,” Stanne said.

The organization had in the past relied mainly on big contributions from businesses, raising thousands of dollars annually. This year, not a single business answered Williston In Bloom’s initial fundraising appeal.

“Corporate donations fell off dramatically and we felt we needed to appeal to individual residents,” said Jack Price, a member of the Williston In Bloom Committee.

The organization, modeled on similar groups throughout the country, was formed in 2002. Williston In Bloom initially shepherded the town’s yearly entry into the national America In Bloom contest. Now it concentrates on plantings each spring and oversees outreach programs, such as providing advice to homeowner associations and coordinating beautification efforts by businesses.

The group relies on volunteer labor with help from town staff. Stanne said more help is still needed. The organization seeks people to commit to watering hanging baskets and other tasks.

Stanne said the committee is grateful for the contributions received to date, which will fund flowers to continue to decorate thoroughfares and hanging baskets to grace the village.

“We really appreciate it,” she said. “I think both businesses and residents support the need to beautify the community where they live and work.”

Williston In Bloom still needs donations or volunteers to help with plantings. To contribute, send checks made out to Williston In Bloom, c/o Neil Boyden, Town of Williston, 7900 Williston Road, Williston, Vt. 05495. For more information on volunteering, call the town’s Public Works Department at 878-1239.