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Volunteers help beautify city on Join Hands Day

May 05, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

Rose Marie Suder didn't realize how fitting the burgundy and orange pansies she and other Join Hands Day volunteers planted on Saturday at the Cleveland Avenue entrance to Fairgrounds Park would be until they got their hands dirty.

Suder's idea to plant a living memorial to honor those who died in the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech added to a previous dedication at the 66-acre park's landscaped entrance in honor and remembrance of the heroes and victims of Sept. 11.

"We didn't know that," Suder said after planting two meandering lines of pansies capped with blooms matching the Blacksburg, Va., school's colors.

The arrangement was one of several projects that Suder and other members of the Washington County chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, decided to take on as part of the national volunteer day sponsored by fraternal benefit societies across the nation. Thrivent Financial is a not-for-profit fraternal membership-driven company that offers a range of financial services.

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"These ought to be really pretty when they continue to bloom," chapter President Gail Smith said of the pansies, which she said would survive winter, provided the season is not too harsh.

In conjunction with Join Hands Day, Thrivent Financial teamed up with the City of Hagerstown's Parks and Recreation and Planning departments to help launch beautification efforts, Suder said. The group had $1,000 to contribute toward the project.

Suder said she saw city Planning Department planner Melissa Hynes on Antietam Cable Channel 6 promoting the formation of an advisory committee to help residents with other beautification projects across the city.

"We're trying to launch a 'Keep Hagerstown Beautiful' campaign," Hynes said. "I'm excited. I really hope other groups come forward."

Hynes noted the city's sponsorship of "Highlight Hagerstown," a new awards program designed to encourage residents and business owners to improve their properties.

On Saturday, about a dozen volunteers with Thrivent Financial and others landscaped five or six areas in Fairgrounds Park and another site next to Hagerstown Greens at Hamilton Run, the city's nine-hole golf course.

In addition to the pansies, volunteers planted and mulched a redbud tree, yellow day lilies, white-blooming japonica bushes, petunias, strawberry candy lilies and boulder blue fescue.

"I really didn't know what I was getting into," said Mathias "Ty" Fridgen, who provides financial services to Thrivent Financial members.

Clear Spring High School senior Wesley Truax said he volunteered to fulfill community service requirements that he needs to graduate.

"I just like the outdoors," said Truax, 17, who hopes to study forestry at Allegheny College of Maryland in Cumberland, Md.

Junior Mason, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said he pulled a couple of members of the city's staff already working on Saturday for the beautification effort at Fairgrounds Park. The park has benefited from a number of volunteer efforts already, Mason said, noting the contributions of Boy Scouts and other groups.

More information about the city's beautification efforts can be found on the City of Hagerstown's Web site at www.hagerstownmd.org.

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