Because of COVID-19 impacts, and mandated state closures, there is a limited number of essential personnel on campus. With so few people around, the University is repurposing flowers pre-purchased for campus planters by donating them to South Side communities and residents. Facilities Services (FS) collaborated with the Office of Civic Engagement (OCE) and donated 450 blooms to the YWCA in Woodlawn for Mother’s Day. Residents who were picking up meals provided through the University’s Community Support Initiative were invited to bring flowers home to their mothers as well. The flower distribution was covered by NBC 5 and FOX 32 News and can be viewed here.
Additionally, the University donated 1,000 more summer plants to two local business support organizations. The Quad Communities Development Corporation (QCDC) will be using the flowers in streetscape planters along 43rd and 47th Streets in the Douglas and Oakland neighborhoods. The flower donation allowed the South Shore Chamber of Commerce to launch a beautification project along 75th Street. Both organizations had eliminated plans for summer flowers because of pandemic-related budget cuts. FS grounds crew loaded trucks with the summer plants and delivered joy and a small gesture to brighten the streets.
South Shore Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Tonya Trice spoke with OCE staff and explained the donation is more than flowers, but also an opportunity. The lead agency for economic development in South Shore is seizing the opportunity to engage the residents and give them an outlet to express their community pride by allowing them to take part in the beautification and clean-up landscaping project. Trice is planning for volunteers to come out with lawnmowers, weed whackers, and other tools to trim tree limbs, clean up debris, cut grass, and plant the donated flowers along the neighborhood’s primary commercial corridor, which was hit first by the pandemic and again by looting and vandalism associated with protests for racial justice.
During these dark and ugly times that the nation is experiencing, the University is shedding some light and beauty to community partners. Trice said, “After so much destruction from the vandalism and looting, to have flowers which symbolize growth, vibrancy, and summer-time, to receive this donation, is amazing.”