By Norma Higgs
Niagara Gazette — This past week there was not much to cheer about but I still remain confident we will overcome our “disaster budget” and move on to better days. Some people are naysayers and negative about everything that happens around here and that creates an atmosphere of pessimism. It is always easier to think that way rather than come up with solutions. I am still in my cheerleading mood and will continue this week with NBC.
Solutions occur when citizens get together to make things better, even if it is just for a day to clean a vacant lot or by joining or assisting an active group such as the Niagara Beautification Commission (NBC) which provides countless hours performing what some would think are small chores in several areas of the city but are really big improvements in small areas.
A few years ago, Marge Gillies, the leader of NBC and Claudia Folsom with Habitat for Humanity got together and decided to recruit others to help them paint the guardrail along Whirlpool Street which had sat neglected for many years. It seemed to be one of those places that sat in limbo as no one would claim responsibility of this stretch. We never did bother to find out whom to ask for permission, we just did it. It was a major job but completed by many hands, many donated gallons of paint, many rollers, and many hours as we worked our way from the aquarium to the Whirlpool Bridge. We were encouraged as cars tooted horns in passing by with thumbs up signs and strangers joined in to help. We at NBC are closely watching its condition and may have to rally forth in a year or so again.
Each April during Beautify Niagara, NBC organizes several thousand volunteers to perform big improvements in designated small areas throughout the city. This started in my early years with NBC when it was a part of the Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce and called Clean Sweep. It has grown to monumental proportions and has generated around thirteen hundred persons of all ages and backgrounds. Various sponsors are also involved to provide clean up supplies and refreshments. Save the date — April 20, 2013.
Part of the mission of NBC is to encourage others to follow our goal of a clean and beautiful place to live and work and we do that by recognizing those businesses who strive to keep their place of business in good condition and make a special effort to add beauty to their surroundings. The recognition is the presentation on a monthly (well almost every month) of our Spotlight Award. Member Mary Jo Zacher suggested this idea and named it and it has been going on for several years beginning with the first award to the Red Coach Inn in 2007 to the latest one last Friday at Foley’s Tavern on Buffalo Avenue. More on that later.
Another way NBC recognizes those who contribute is our annual awards luncheon held in September each year. Recipients are selected from within a predetermined theme and they could be individuals, business owners, volunteers, senior citizens, organizations and the like. We usually stay within our own boundaries within the City of Niagara Falls as we do for all of our activities but everyone and everything is fair game. This event began back in the early days of the Chamber of Commerce oversight but it has gained momentum during recent years. Honorees have included parks, both private and public, volunteers from outside the city, beautiful people, art galleries and museums and our local college and university providing volunteers and services to the city and residents.
NBC has been involved in the design, implementation and maintenance of city entranceway beginning with Cal Babcock who occasionally still works solo in certain spots. I recall the year the Niagara County Community College landscape design students created the welcome area near the Niagara Falls Airport for NBC and even provided students to do some of the work. It is now under discussion to update this spot which is very difficult from a safety aspect for worker bees to move equipments and plantings in and out. A small group of volunteers made a BIG impact on the John B. Daly Boulevard median annual maintenance chores. When they finished weeding the end of the strip, it was time to begin again from the starting point. They also selected plantings when the City Parks Department took the project back under its wing. During the Beautify Niagara campaign the Dyster Family and Friends cleaned up the Whirlpool Bridge entry and Main Street Business & Professional Association works each year on the entry at Ontario and Main. These partnerships are important and needed by this organization as every person counts.
Individual members such as Linda and James Gibbons, Liz and Mike Brady and others select spots to create needed landscaping such as at Gluck Park and the Hyde Park Rose Garden. They also do the endless job of watering the large flower pots near the Statue of Liberty Park (another NBC project) at the Rainbow Bridge Entrance.
All of this is accomplished with funding in the amount of $5,000 from the city. No payroll, just insurance costs, some tools and plantings. Other project donors are the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission and the Seneca Gaming Corporation. Quite a bargain overall. Hip Hip Hooray for NBC!Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council.