I remember it like it was yesterday – yet it was last year. Richard Heller, our PLANET Public Relations Committee Chair was talking to me about the not-yet-launched PLANET Day of Service idea. As I heard his forward thinking vision of uniting the green industry for one day – to accomplish amazing tasks for our individual communities – I was excited and encouraged to be part of such an incredible and unique vision.
I immediately reached out to Doug Obermann with PBI/Gordon Corporation. PBI/Gordon is a PLANET Supplier Member, and has its headquarters in Kansas City as well. Doug and I met several times over the course of the winter, and dreamed big. We thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to do a service project at Liberty Memorial – a World War I Memorial – that is right here in Kansas City?” – our idea became reality.
Doug reached out to Russell Gardner, who manages the facility. Russell shared with us that with recent budget cuts, the memorial had some basic lawn and landscape needs. The next steps were quite amazing. We brainstormed that this did not need to just be a PLANET Day of Service project for Highland Outdoor and PBI/Gordon, but for the ENTIRE green industry in Kansas City. We invited everyone – and they came…
In the end, we had approximately 60 volunteers show up on the day of our “Makeover” – from 10 different landscape, tree, irrigation, mulch, nursery, fertilizer companies from around our area. We logged in a total 500-600 man hours, and made a dramatic difference in our city’s prime landmark. We cleared brush, pruned shrubs, applied lime, did irrigation repairs, made safety and aesthetic tree trimming, installed mulch, pruned small trees, pulled weeds, picked up trash, and did an overall landscape renovation – in one day.
At the end of that day, our local media noticed too. We had 18 live “hits” on our local news, with 8 packaged “hits”… We had a near full page photo of one of my Highland Outdoor Team members in the newspaper the next day, and a short 3-minute documentary on kansascity.com. We were excited to receive kudos from our local community and media – the city even made a proclamation that April 22nd, 2009 was “PLANET Day” in Kansas City, MO.
Little did we know that our real payoff was yet to come. As the crews were pulling out, I was taking some final photos of the work we did, walking around the top deck of the Memorial. Here is what I wrote via email to all of our volunteers the next day via email. Our real payoff was yet to come:
At the end of our day, I saw a group of Servicemen and Servicewomen sitting up on the upper deck of the Memorial, and they asked me to take their photo and email it to them. I did, and the reply I got from them today encapsulated exactly why we did what we did… Read a snapshot of their email to me:
We thought spending the day there would be a good way to begin our mobilization process as we are deploying to Iraq in the near future. For some of us, this rotation will be the third and forth between all the time spent between Iraq and Afghanistan. Once again, I thank you for taking the time to take this photo and send it to me!
When I got that email, I was grateful even more for our investment to the Memorial. These men and women, on their way to Iraq and Afghanistan, chose to spend part of their day at Liberty Memorial – and they were able to see a nicer property as a result of our work.
To me, this is what the Green Industry is all about, and specifically what PLANET Day of Service is about. We were completely grateful for our incredible day of “giving back” and it felt even more valuable to us in this current economy. I’m so humbled and honored to be part of an incredible industry, and association.
Here is to everyone “giving back” in whatever way they can…
- To see the video produced by KansasCity.com, click here.
- To see a slide show of some of the photos of our day at Liberty Memorial, click here
- To see the full page photo in the Kansas City Star of Natasha Gabbert, Highland Outdoor Team Member, click here