Civic group planning healthy new year

Published 10:21 am Thursday, January 2, 2014

The new year looks brighter and brighter for Ironton In Bloom, says its chairwoman. The grass-roots beautification organization is starting 2014 in the black with plans to keep on with projects that have enhanced the city for the past six years.

The local organization, which began in 2008, is an affiliate of America In Bloom, a nonprofit that promotes community beautification through planting of trees and flowers.

“The future is good,” Carol Allen, IIB chairwoman, said. “We ended (2013) with $2,000 plus. It is amazing. We were actually in the hole in September and did not know how we would pull ourselves out.”

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Supporters who had promised pledges had already paid up. Then an unexpected largesse came when the family of Mary Lintner, a longtime advocate of IIB, asked that memorials be given in her name.

“We reaped the benefit of that,” Allen said. “She had watched us develop and had always given to us. She loved flowers and was out gardening in her 90s. And she loved what was happening in Ironton.”

Starting in May IIB will once more put out the planters and hanging containers around the city along with offering its Mother’s Day weekend flower sale. The summertime flower display downtown costs the organization between $36,000 and $40,000 a season.

“Trying to raise that is very difficult,” Allen said. “There are other good things that are happening in Ironton that need fresh dollars.”

To bring in those needed dollars the organization is also continuing one of its major fundraisers, the OPT — Ownership Pride Teamwork — sponsorship program, where the community can have the opportunity to support IIB financially either through a contribution of $200 or by being an area sponsor of a flower pot or container for $1,000 that pays for the plants and maintenance for a year.

“We will send out the OPT letters and our notes of certifications of appreciation to businesses and individuals who are supporting us the first of March,” Allen said. “Restoring pride and the sense of ownership through teamwork in our community is the mission statement for our OPT program.”

Projects started in 2013 will get IIB’s support again this year including the Community Garden and the Natural Habitat Garden at St. Mary’s Medical Center-Ironton Campus, where plants native to the area were planted last fall to provide a long-term maintenance-free garden.

“That will be an ongoing project,” she said. “We will have to continue weeding it and mulching it and give it a good start. The first year will demand our time.”

But once the garden takes hold, it will adapt to the climate here.

“It can live with that kind of heat,” Allen said.

The Community Garden, where residents purchased plots at the site on Seventh and Adams streets, will start its second year this spring. Last year close to 25 plots were planted with vegetables during the summer to provide a harvest for those who do not have access to a backyard garden. Participants paid a flat fee and purchased their own plants. The City of Ironton provided the water for the garden.

“That is becoming more and more a stand-alone project,” Allen said. “We are looking into the development of one in the north end of town.”

Already IIB has made initial strides for the north-end garden with a meeting with Ironton’s mayor and the city school board.

“We just have to meet in January to see if that is a goal that they have and they can support with manpower and money,” she said.

Also on tap for 2014 will be the June Backyard Garden Tour and the fall and Christmas decorating contests.

Ironton began its involvement with America In Bloom with the summertime flower plantings. Since then Huntington, W.Va., has joined as an affiliate of the national organization and Ashland has installed hanging baskets of flowers in its downtown area.

“The whole Tri-State area is looking better,” she said. “That is what partnering is all about. People who live in one community live in all three.”