By Suzy Kridner
NEW SMYRNA BEACH - The weeds are gone.
New grass, freshly planted flowers and bright blue picnic tables welcome children spending the summer at the Oretha Bell/New Smyrna Beach Boys & Girls Club here. And the youngsters are able to enjoy the work they accomplished along with Home Depot volunteers in sprucing up the club.
Last week about 30 employees of Home Depot stores in Central Florida from as far as Orlando descended on the Boys and Girls Club on Mary Avenue to lay sod, plant flowers, help the kids paint and enjoy a barbecue lunch.
Neal Coates said he started working on a grant for the more than $6,000 project earlier this year while he was director at the Oretha Bell Center. He recently was named community relations director for the Boys & Girls Club parent organization in Volusia and Flagler counties.
The Home Depot employees volunteered their time on their days off to chip in and beautify the Boys & Girls Club, said Dan Stridacchio, the project coordinator for Home Depot.
The company gave a $6,100 community grant to improve beautification and safety at the club.
The kids were tripping over exposed roots in the yard, mostly dirt and weeds, so 20 pallets of sod were laid by New Smyrna Beach Home Depot managers Greg Johnson and Mr. Stridacchio, and their volunteer crew, with help from the kids.
"We laid Palmetto St. Augustine sod because it is resistant to bugs and good in the shade," said Mr. Stridacchio, the project coordinator.
"The 90 stepping stone pavers will allow the kids to walk in and out safely and not bring in dirt," he said.
Home Depot Department supervisor Kevin Cassily helped pressure wash the pavers after they were installed.
Mr. Coates said he brought in a cooker and fed the volunteers crew hotdogs, hamburgers and cole slaw.
A few members of the Home Depot crew came in two weeks ago, Mr. Stridacchio said, to install sprinklers, which have rain sensors to shut off when it rains.
The landscaping that was planted included Indian Hawthorne bushes, which are drought tolerant so they don't require as much water, he said.
The Palmetto St. Augustine grass planted also is resistant to bugs and good for shade.
Mr. Johnson worked with the store's venders to get many of the supplies at a discount or at no cost.
"There are still funds available from the grant to do other projects at the club," he said.
The beautification will be on ongoing project for the kids to keep up the appearance of the yard, as well as the garden.
"The center really looks good now," Mr. Coates said. "And they enhanced the safety and beautification of the facility."