Beautification set in motion, volunteers start exterior makeover

As the sun rose on September 23, volunteers grabbed their shovels and gardening gloves and took to the curbs of Oshkosh on a mission to abolish the cobwebs and resurrect the district’s glory days. At 18 schools across the city, these community members removed and replanted in an effort to match the outside of these building with the vibrant spirit of the inside. The first wave of this project was made possible by countless donations, of time, money and resources. Creating a plan for this many sites and volunteers was made possible by many, including City Forester, Bill Strum.

“Myself and Lisa Mick, from UWO grounds department, visited all of the school sites back in March and we made recommendations for landscape improvements on all the sites. We were looking for projects that could be well managed by volunteer groups, so we didn’t want to get into anything too complicated like tree removal or tree pruning or anything like that,” he said. “We assessed all the sites, came up with listings for each property on what could be done and what we think would enhance the appearance of the schools.”

After surveying the work sites, Sturm formulated a specific list of jobs to be done at various schools throughout the community.

“We wanted to enhance some of the building entrances to try to make it look good from the street as best as possible. This would help make it interesting for residents and the community -- to see a nicely organized site,” he said. “Different landscape contractors have come forward and volunteered to do some of the preparation ahead of this event. Real Nurseries was really instrumental in coming in, cutting out sod, tilling up the beds, and doing some of that work that we didn’t think we could manage with a volunteer group, so there were thankful a lot of professional services helped out as well.”

During Project Curb, Merrill Middle School received an extreme makeover. Merrill’s Principal Cindy Olson was glad to hear that Project Curb was finally being put into action.

“We’ve been talking about this beautification project, the idea from Oshkosh4Education, since January so for it to be finally happening  is very exciting and to see the community come together is super exciting for our school and the community as a whole,” she said.

Volunteers were presented individual jobs to work on at each site. With a short four hour time frame, volunteers were put under the command of a site director at each school to make sure the operation went smoothly and efficiently.

“There’s different jobs to do , which we were told ahead of time. Then we have crew leaders who are delegating out the different tasks that need to be done,” Olson said. “If volunteers have questions those are the go-to people. We also have a resource here that’s been part of the project planning, Bill Sturm, from the city of Oshkosh, and he’s kind of overseeing the whole event.”

Sturm, who was the site director at Merrill, attests to the performance of the volunteers.

“Merrill ran very smoothly, probably because I’m running it,” he said. “No, just kidding. We have a good base of volunteers here today. Everyone has been pretty active and everyone got here fairly early. It went very well. We knocked out the planting bed by the sign early on and we also had a head start on weeding the memorial garden. Later on we will planted a tree in that garden.”

Olson, being one of the volunteers, comments on the specifics of the various jobs she was tasked with.

“I was a weeder and a planter,” she said. “We repainted our four square lines on the playground. We got a conscious discipline time machine put out on the playground to help students when they try to resolve their conflicts. In addition, we did a lot of planting on the south end of the building here at Merrill.”

Despite all of the work done at Merrill, Sturm stresses the importance of consistency throughout the Oshkosh community.

“As a City Forester, I work with the entire area within the Oshkosh City limits,” he said. “We don’t just want individual elements, as far as horiculture, we would rather look at it with a community wide perspective and try to make sure that everything looks good and is more continuous throughout Oshkosh.”

West also received some landscaping on Saturday. Although the extent of the beautification was much smaller than other schools in the area, work was still done to help West be in keeping with the community.

“At West on Saturday, we planted some trees, we planted some shrubs by the auditorium, and we also cleaned up the area by door 38 by putting down some mulch,” Assistant Principal and volunteer Becky Montour said.

After all the work was done for Project Curb, Olson reflected on the generosity of the community, seeing it as a tremendous sign of support.

“This is my school, I’m the principal. And to know that the community came together, and cares about us, even those that don’t necessarily have a connection to Merrill Middle School or  Merrill Elementary School,” she said. “That they also showed their support by coming together to take care of us means a lot.”


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