Group explains projects to spruce up downtown

Help keep Salem beautiful – and thank all those businesses who have already done their part by painting, renovating, and keeping their areas spiffy.

That was the message presented by members of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce’s Salem Beautification Committee, who spend from April to November cleaning up downtown, planting flowers, watering and weeding and recognizing businesses and individuals who take care of their properties.

The committee made a presentation to Salem City Council’s Committee of the Whole tuesday night, focusing on the positives that happened in Salem in 2013 related to multiple efforts to improve the look of the town, both by the committee and by business and building owners.

Salem Beautification Committee co-chair Karen Carter introduced their members, explained what they do, how they impact the city, what was added or improved last year and goals for this year, but she also said they need some help from the community.

She said they need new members to help with the cleanups, the watering and maintenance. Even if a person just had time to water a couple of containers or just participate in one cleanup, she said every little bit helps. She turned to some members of Cub Scout Pack 6 and told them they can help. She also said they need to keep working on removing graffiti.

Anyone wanting to volunteer or even donate to the cause can call the chamber office at 330-337-3473. The committee will hold a meeting at 3 p.m. April 14 at the chamber office, located at the corner of State and Lincoln. She also said anyone is welcome to show up for the committee’s Cleanup Day from 9 to noon April 26. Volunteers are asked to meet at McCulloch Park downtown on State Street and bring gloves, rakes and other tools (all marked with their name).

The morning of last year’s event, it snowed, but scores of volunteers showed up, including cub scouts, clubs and organizations, school groups such as the National Honor Society, and even the Quakers football team and coaches.

“We love making a difference,” Carter said.

She grew up in Salem and admitted the city doesn’t look the same as it did back then, but said “that doesn’t mean we can’t make it attractive.”

When people drive through, they see the downtown and they make a quick judgment about the city. She wants that impression to be a positive one. Members of the committee handle the watering of 34 urns downtown, three or more days a week, all summer long and into the fall.

The only income the committee receives is from the Adopt-A-Planter program for businesses and individuals to adopt planters. The money pays for the flowers, with any additional donations used for the soil, weed killer and other items used. All the large urns are sold out for this year, but tall planters remain available for $20 and small ones for $15. The committee takes care of planting the flowers, watering and weeding.

Last year the committee added hanging baskets, eight containers, on the poles at each corner of State and Lundy. The members also painted all the urns, cleaned and weeded the brick path near the old opera house on State Street leading back to Sugartree Alley, had a new sign made for the Business of the Month and added October as one of the months to recognize a business. May was added as a month to recognize Home of the Month.

The committee also started an award for beautifully decorated homes at Christmas in all four wards, one in Perry Township and one for professionally-decorated home. They sold tickets for 12 Days of Christmas.

Member Jennifer Brown said they started the first annual Sunflower Award, to recognize businesses who clean their windows, have neat entranceways and take care of their businesses on a regular basis. She also read 101 reasons to love Salem.

Carter explained that she had taken photographs of some of the work done by area businesses and showed them to Mayor John Berlin, who suggested she share the positive information with council. She said everybody knows about the negative things happening in Salem, but members of the community may not realize the good being done.

The photographs were included in a Powerpoint presentation to council members, with plans calling for the presentation to be placed on the city website. The slideshow included photographs of new landscaping at businesses, a large number of businesses which simply painted their buildings, renovations to buildings and some new construction. She said some of the building owners and businesses did the work themselves.

The difference a coat of paint can make can be seen by walking down State Street in the downtown area and on Broadway Avenue. Other projects done besides painting have included new roofs, new windows, new awnings, new signage, new landscaping and even new parking lots. Millions of dollars were spent by some businesses on renovations and more money is expected to be spent this year.

The committee named a lot of names for people to recognize for their help and efforts, but ended by asking council members to do something about the sidewalks downtown. Carter said they owe it to the businesses downtown.