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green ribbonWhen President Hallman announced the theme for her term, “Celebrating Homegrown Heroes,” Avon Garden Club began thinking of a project that would carry out that theme. After much discussion the Executive Board decided to honor the employees of Avondale Estates’ Public Works Department. In Avondale Estates we enjoy backyard pick up of our garbage twice a week. We do not have to bag yard debris; rather, we place it on the verge next to the street and Public Works crews vacuum the debris into a truck and the material is composted.

On their garbage pick-up routes City staff are often seen going beyond their job descriptions to help citizens in keeping our City a great place to live. Recently a garbage crew even helped a resident find her new puppy who had escaped from the house. In times of inclement weather, such as hurricanes and snow/ice storms, public works employees come to work in the wee hours of the morning to do whatever it takes to make the City streets clean and safe for citizens to use. After Hurricane Irma employees worked six days a week for several weeks to cut up fallen tree limbs as well as other debris and move the debris out of the way of citizens.

Public Works employees install plant material in various beds throughout the city and then maintain the plantings. They ensure that all our public spaces are clean and attractive. Public Works employees work at all city-wide events, whether it is the Christmas Tree lighting, the 4th of July celebration or the Labor Day race. Public Works employees are there before the event begins and work after the event is over to make sure everything is in order. And, the truly remarkable thing is that they do this with smiles and cheerful attitudes. These men are out in all sorts of weather, doing difficult, dirty, and potentially dangerous duties for a relatively small amount of remuneration. According to our City Manager, for insurance purposes, public works employees rank with public safety officers in terms of danger. Our Public Works employees are truly our Homegrown Heroes.

Avon Garden Club decided to solicit donations from residents and businesses serviced by the Public Works Department. The donations were intended to serve as a tangible demonstration of our deep appreciation of their work. We knew that such a project would be a large one and invited Avondale Estates Garden Club to work with us. Both clubs worked diligently to bring this project to fruition. Before getting too deeply into the project, we contacted the Avondale Estates City Manager, who gave his enthusiastic support for the effort.

We developed a brief letter to distribute to residents and businesses, outlining the intent of the project. In addition to asking for a donation, we asked residents and businesses to display a length of green ribbon somewhere on their property to show their support of Public Works employees. Everyone was asked to put the ribbon out on their property sometime on Sunday, December 17th, so that the ribbons would be visible when employees came to work December 18th. Green was chosen as a symbol of the Christmas season (the project was done in November and December) and green also represents the environment. Public Works employees play a vital role in creating and maintaining a healthy environment within the City.

A lovely green ribbon was ordered in 50-foot rolls. We decided to give a 6-foot length of ribbon to each residence and business. To cut the ribbon, we had two “cutting parties” during which Club members gathered at a member’s home. A production line was set up to measure 6-foot lengths and then cut them. Approximately 2000 ribbons were cut. Once the ribbon was cut, members rolled the ribbon into a tight roll. Other members then took the ribbon and put each one into a zip lock sandwich bag along with a copy of the letter, explaining the project. The only monetary cost of the project was the cost of ribbon, around $300, which was shared by Avon and Avondale Estates Garden Clubs. All other supplies were donated by club members. Cutting the ribbons and preparing the bags took approximately 120 hours of volunteer time.

emerald green satin ribbon 812 pOnce the ribbons were cut and put into plastic bags, volunteers were solicited to distribute the bags to residents and businesses. Each volunteer was given an assignment of streets or portions thereof to which to deliver the ribbon bags. When possible, volunteers talked with residents/business owners to explain the project and accept donations. Diane Mahaffey offered the use of the mail slot in her front door to accept donations if people preferred to mail or drop off donations. The ribbon bags were hand delivered to each home and each business within the City, requiring nearly 500 hours of volunteer time. Dozens of volunteers were involved in distributing the ribbon bags. When all phases of the project are taken into account, a total of 77 members were involved. We also had volunteers from Avondale Estates Garden Club, Avondale Woman’s Club, Citizens Patrol and the Neighborhood Watch. It was truly a community effort!

The response to the project exceeded expectations. We received literally hundreds of donations, all of which were put into the Avon Garden Club treasury for the duration of the project. Alicia LaRocco, Avon Treasurer, volunteered to receive the donations, even though November is a very busy time for her as it coincides with our annual Pancake Breakfast fund raiser. For legal reasons the proceeds of our efforts could not be given directly to employees. Alicia wrote a check to the City for the proceeds. The City then processed the donation through its payroll department so that taxes could be deducted. We raised close to $21,000. Each Public Works employee received a check in the amount of $1200 on December 20 2018.

As Avon President I was privileged to attend the meeting during which our City Manager presented the checks to the employees. He handed out the envelopes but instructed the workers not to open them until all envelopes had been distributed and after he had the opportunity to say a few words. I was fortunate enough to say a few words of appreciation to the workers as well. As the envelopes were opened and the workers realized what they had, the room came alive. There were smiles, yelps of joy, and hugs of appreciation. Many residents included written thank you notes with their donations. A poster was made featuring the thank you notes which was taken by the Public Works Manager and displayed in the Public Works Building. The workers appeared to be genuinely surprised. Our efforts to keep our efforts under wraps from the employees succeeded!

It was thrilling to see the City streets and businesses festooned with green ribbons beginning December 18th. Avondale Estates is festive during the Christmas season and the ribbons added an extra layer to the festive appearance. Some ribbons are still up in the City!

Several Avon members have commented that working on this project truly made their holiday season more meaningful and memorable. That is certainly true for me. I’ve never been involved in anything that gave me as much satisfaction as this one!