GARLAND — With a rake in his hand, Bernard McKoy smoothed dirt on a parking strip in downtown while the wind was gusting through the leaves of trees sitting in the street.
Later that morning, the trees were planted into the ground thanks to the Lowe’s Home Improvement and volunteers such as McKoy. Participants planted trees, flowers and shrubs in downtown Garland. The project was part of Lowe’s Heroes program, which began more than 10 years ago. Its purpose is to encourage employees to work together and adopt a volunteer project with a nonprofit organization or public school.
McKoy heard about the project through Saint Stephen AME Zion Church.
“It’s great,” McKoy said. “It’s going to look beautiful.”
McKoy was born and raised in town and in the future, he’ll be able to watch the white crepe myrtle trees grow more than 20 feet tall and improve the look of the area.
Russell Clark, store manager for the local store, said it was inspirational to see everyone go the extra mile to beautify the community.
“It makes me feel very really proud of our company, that allows us to come out and do things like this,” Clark said.
Garland was selected by local employees and the town’s North Carolina Small Town’s Economic Prosperity (NC STEP) Program.
“We’re real grateful for Lowe’s taking care of us, the way they are,” said Jackie Newton Johnson of NC STEP. “It’s a wonderful program. We’re just real pleased because it’s going to look better after it’s finished.”
Johnson said NC STEP participants talked about improving the area for awhile.
“It feels really good to see it all come together,” Johnson said about the project. “We’re looking forward to seeing it transformed little by little.”
The work for the Garland project began Tuesday and continued through Wednesday. After dirt was leveled on the parking strip, landscape fabric which will be used to control weeds, was spread across the dirt. Eleven trees were planted in the area. On Tuesday, Clark said there’s a possibility that a evergreen or something similar may be planted in the area.
“The employees are pumped up,” Clark said. “All of the volunteers seem very happy to be out here, willing to help. It’s just a great partnership between Lowe’s and the community and I’m really glad to be a part of it.”
The project was Clark’s first time working with a community in Sampson County for the Heroes program. Internationally, Lowe’s Home Improvement assisted many communities with projects such as the one in Garland. In addition to making the area look better, one of the goals is to bring in more businesses and potential entrepreneurs.
Along with NC STEP and other volunteers, Mayor Winifred Murphy was thankful for the project which involved assistance from cadets from the Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy.
“It’s very exciting,” Murphy said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.