Elks member Dan Pierce called Harmony Lake “Hillsboro’s best kept secret,” and to keep everything looking nice, the local Hillsboro Elks lodge and students from McClain High School were planting small Alberta spruce trees at the park’s new shelter house Thursday.
“We’re going to be over at Rotary Park, at the new shelter house that the Rotary built [near the former Washington school site], next Friday,” Pierce said. “On November first, we’re going to be downtown where the Colony Theatre used to be. The city has purchased shelving and the Elks have purchased pots, and the kids that are working here today will be putting potting soil and mums in those pots.”
After that project is complete, he said, they will move out to the streets of downtown Hillsboro to plant pansies around the evergreens that are in the large concrete planters.
Pierce said the endeavor was part of what is called the “Impact to Life” program for special needs students that has been in existence for the past several years. It began with funding from the Elks National Foundation and progressed into money given from local financial institutions including NCB, Fifth Third Bank and Merchants National Bank.
He pointed out that the students doing basic landscaping at Harmony Lake Thursday were preparing to transition into the workforce, and said the Impact to Life program was designed to reduce roadblocks to gainful employment.
“Landscaping is not a cheap enterprise,” he said. “We do landscaping with them, we work at the senior citizens center in the kitchen doing restaurant tasks, we do grounds and building maintenance, anything that will get them an entry level job.”
Pierce said that while the “hands-on” experience is invaluable, the program also teaches the students necessary “behind-the-scenes” skills such as interviewing techniques, teamwork, nutrition, proper attire and even budgeting for when they start earning a paycheck.
The students working at Harmony Lake came from Hayley Lovett’s class with fellow teacher and colleague Sandy Reyer acting as field supervisor. Pierce said the seed was planted when Laurel Oaks JVS shut down its restaurant training program, adding that “we started with restaurant training and it sort of evolved from there.”
“The Elks National Foundation money is very important to us, and they’re very good to the local Elks with grant money,” he said. “But we wouldn’t be able to be doing this without the support of NCB, Fifth Third and Merchants.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.