For Albion mayor Joe Domingo, this past weekend sparked a new era in how both the residential and collegiate community can make a difference for the city of Albion. On Sept. 10 and 11, the Albion Community Foundation (ACF) launched the first annual Extreme Community Makeover in an effort to improve the aesthetic and civic upkeep of the Albion community.
“This was certainly something that we’ve been talking about doing for a long time, and now we’ve finally started and are building some momentum around here,” Domingo said.
Albion resident Elizabeth Schultheiss, executive director of ACF, was one of the leading coordinators of improving a corner lot at Porter and Superior Street, which included planting flowers, shrubs, and a performance stage in time for Festival of the Forks.
Schultheiss said that these multiple efforts couldn’t have been possible without local support, which she estimated to be about 250 volunteers between the college and the community. The effort was funded by a $22,000 grant that was provided by ACF.
The renovations took place at seven different sites throughout downtown and outskirts of the city, including building a natural playground at Caldwell Elementary School, refurbishing homes with Habitat for Humanity, and planting a trail of flowers along the Kalamazoo River trail. Some projects are scheduled to be ongoing into the spring, according to Domingo.
“It gives the city of Albion a sense of pride to acknowledge that when the time comes, people will rally to make a big difference in a little town like ours. What we’re starting now will make an impact for the future,” Schultheiss said.
According to volunteer Dan Gremore, Albion senior, it is a good idea to continue such efforts to ensure that the future of the community is in good hands.
“This is a college town, and it’s important for students at both the collegiate and high school level to take part in what happens here,” Gremore said.
While some students worked with Habitat for Humanity throughout the neighborhood, Gremore teamed up with Schultheiss in the corner park improvements downtown.
Other local volunteers, such as the residents of Oak Meadows, constructed a community garden while college students and the local Girl’s Club constructed a butterfly garden inside McIntosh Park.
“Things like this, we do it for the kids,” said Paulette Hartsell, resident manager of Oak Meadows. “We’re here to make improvements to the community we see now, but it’s also about teaching [families] how a community works.”
Mayor Domingo says he hopes to continue local involvement on a widespread basis, and is also striving to attract a younger group of volunteers.
“It’s about bringing each other together—this is something that has to appeal to everybody, but we have to make it inclusive for everyone in order to make it work,” Domingo said. “This project isn’t easy, and we’re going to need people to start leading by example.”
Nancy Roush ‘72, Albion resident and former principal of Harrington Elementary, volunteered on Friday with her husband to help plant flowers and shrubs.
“I wanted to see the community’s image back to the way it was to when I was a student at the college,” said Roush. “Not one person nor can all the money in the world make a community stand on its feet again–this is something that requires everyone.”