Cleaning up a community landmark

PBI-Gordon and Project EverGreen team up to beautify a neglected Kansas City, Kan., park


volunteers at Huron Park
A volunteer from PBI-Gordon and a young helper rake leaves at Huron Park in Kansas City, Kan., on Oct. 14.Photos by Abby Olcese

Cindy Code gestured at the buildings surrounding Huron Park in downtown Kansas City, Kan.

“This is the skeleton of the city,” Code said. “This park is the lungs. It helps the city breathe.”

Code — the executive director of Project EverGreen, a national nonprofit that supports community green spaces — was speaking on the morning of Oct. 14 to a group of 14 volunteers from PBI-Gordon and Project EverGreen’s GreenCare for Communities initiative. Along with employees from the Kansas City (Kan.) Parks & Recreation department, the assembled group was there to help with beautification efforts to Huron Park, a 7-acre space near the Kansas City Public Library and Wyandotte County City Hall, and adjacent to the Huron Indian Cemetery historical landmark.

“It’s a big job, and no one can do it alone,” Code said. “That’s why we’re here to help make it happen.”

Cindy Code and Tim Demerath.
Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen, and Tim Demerath, vice president of sales at PBI-Gordon. Demerath is also on the board of Project EverGreen, a national nonprofit which supports community green spaces.

Huron Park is also just over a mile away from PBI-Gordon’s headquarters, making it an ideal project to incorporate as part of the organization’s 75th-anniversary celebration.

“Green spaces make people happy,” Tim Demerath, vice president of sales at PBI-Gordon and a board member for Project EverGreen, said. “PBI-Gordon has been happy to be part of that for 75 years.”

Volunteers worked alongside Parks & Recreation employees and professional contractors to help execute renovation projects including sidewalk edging, mulching, bulb planting, weed management, tree and shrub pruning, and aeration and overseeding. In addition to PBI-Gordon volunteers, the group received support from SiteOne Landscape Supply and Kansas City-area lawn, garden and landscape businesses The Grass Pad and Ryan Lawn & Tree.

“The biggest reason for helping out today is that we love the outdoors,” Neil Cleveland, PBI-Gordon senior vice president and general manager, said. “We’re also neighbors. We can plant a crabapple tree today, and then come back in 10 years to see how it’s grown.”

Neil Cleveland.
Neil Cleveland, senior vice president and general manager of PBI-Gordon, moves mulch to a prepared bed at Huron Park.

PBI-Gordon’s stated commitment to environmental stewardship and accountability matches well with the Cleveland-based Project EverGreen, which uses a nationwide base of professional volunteers to help connect communities with opportunities to maximize the health of grass, plants and trees in an effort to not only enrich community green spaces but also sequester carbon and clean the air. 

Code and the organization maintain that healthy parks, lawns and landscapes help mitigate temperature increases and reduce energy use, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure those spaces stay in usable shape.

“A well-maintained, vibrant park brings cooling relief to this urban downtown,” Code said in a statement. “Bringing the community’s vision to life is possible only through the collaboration of individuals, businesses and community grants. Our professional volunteers love sharing their expertise and giving back to neighborhood parks and green spaces.”

The volunteers spent their Friday morning digging, edging, mulching, aerating and caring for the park’s existing plants and trees, and their enthusiasm was palpable, something Cleveland said he attributed to the energizing power of the outdoors.

“Everyone out here planting is smiling and having a good time,” he said. “What’s not to like?”

Abby Olcese is GCM’s online editor.