To help preserve, protect, and nurture the economic and cultural vitality of downtown Caldwell through the creation of public and private partnerships.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It Takes a Community to Hang Flower Baskets

Project Main Street Volunteers Sara Robertson, Rick Ventola, Christy Berg, Kevin Macken, Tammy Wysocki, Alan Schindler and James Haas. 

This summer, beautiful baskets of cascading dragon wing begonias were hung on decorative wrought iron brackets along Bloomfield Avenue in Caldwell.

What seemed to be a simple suggestion from Project Main Street volunteer Barbara Pucciarello was, in fact, no small project. It took an outstanding collaborative effort by a team of dedicated volunteers and an overwhelming show of support by local residents, merchants and government to turn her suggestion into reality.

With money raised through Project Main Street’s first Caldwell Beautification Dinner and 50/50 raffle in May, the organization’s Design Committee members worked to ensure that the money raised was returned to the community as promised. But, as they researched options, one question continually challenged the team – how would they water the flowers often enough to keep them flourishing throughout the hot summer months? 

Three local landscapers stepped up to the challenge. Rick Ventola of R. Ventola Landscaping, James Haas of The James R. Haas Landscape Spectrum and Kevin Macken of K. Macken Landscaping all volunteered their time to water and fertilize the flowers throughout the year.  All three men are long standing residents of Caldwell and cited their reasons as their love of this community and their desire to give something back. The landscapers follow a schedule set by Project Main Street volunteer Tammy Wysocki and use a 25 gallon rolling watering machine purchased by the nonprofit organization.

“This is an extraordinary effort by Ventola, Haas and Macken,” said Alan Schindler, Project Main Street Design Committee Chair. “Not only did they volunteer to do the bracket installation and hang the baskets for us, but they’ve been watering the flowers daily or every other day in this heat to keep them thriving. It’s a labor of love for the town of Caldwell. Project Main Street is extremely grateful to have them as volunteers.”

Schindler, along with Design Committee members Tammy Wysocki, Barb Pucciarello, Stephanie Kirsch, Alan and Diane Ryan, Lara Bechwati, Irene Cacciopoli and Christy Berg, did significant research to make the best decisions from both a financial and a design perspective. They selected the elegant begonia varietal for their visual impact, bloom longevity and drought tolerance.  The bracket design was selected to be congruous with the aesthetic of the lampposts and the feel of a historic downtown. The team walked Bloomfield Avenue to determine optimal placement, alternating poles to allow for banners hung throughout the year.  

The final step was gaining approval. Project Main Street worked with PSE&G to gain authorization to hang the baskets and American flags on their poles.  The Mayor and Council gave their unanimous approval for the project in a June council meeting.  Smiling warmly, Mayor Gartland thanked Project Main Street for their efforts, sharing that this was something she’s wanted in Caldwell for a long time.

After the first frost, the hanging baskets will be replanted with seasonal selections. And, next March, they’ll be planted and stored in a greenhouse until mid-May when they’ll be ready to grace Bloomfield Avenue again.

Funding for this project was made possible by the community’s support of Project Main Street’s Beautification Dinner and 50/50 raffle organized by volunteers Barbara Pucciarello, Teresa Akerson, Elisse Glennon, Karen Della Santi, Paula Sules, Carolyn O’Brien and Jerry Smith and through the tricky tray donations made by Caldwell’s merchants.

The event and outpouring of support for the initiative exceeded Project Main Street’s expectations.  Roseland resident Mary Collins summed it up as she purchased two raffle tickets to support Project Main Street’s efforts. “I consider this my downtown too. I grew up in Caldwell and I’m nostalgic for the days I could buy everything downtown,” said Collins. “I’m excited that someone’s working to make downtown more attractive. It will help keep the businesses going and help get some new stores open.”

Project Main Street, an initiative of the Caldwell Downtown Alliance, is a completely volunteer, non-profit and non-governmental organization working to restore Caldwell’s cultural and economic vitality collaboratively through public and private partnerships.  To learn more, share your ideas, become a volunteer or show your support, email, call 973-228-8900 or become a fan on Facebook.

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