MIRA and Town of Normal Enhance Unity Community Center with Unity Pollinator Garden

Group Photo Unity


Mid-Illinois Realtors® Association (MIRA) and Town of Normal are Helping to Enhance Unity Community Center with the Creation of a Unity Pollinator Garden

Bloomington, IL, October 30, 2020 -In its 17 years, University of Illinois Extensions Unity Community Center in Normal has become the bedrock of the local community. The Unity Community Center provides an essential after school program, vibrant summer camps, food donation services, production garden and children’s garden. Despite services being altered or slowed due to the pandemic, a new landscape for the community building was installed this October.

The Mid-Illinois Realtors Association (MIRA) has received a $4,500.00  Placemaking grant from the National Association of Realtors® to help make Normal a better place to live by transforming an unused space into vibrant public space for the community to gather and enjoy.  The goal of the landscape was to utilize smart design principles and tried and true plant varieties to create a beautiful welcoming garden. The educators who serve Unity intend to do what they do best, teach the youth of Unity about gardening principles such as providing a space to learn about pollinators and wildlife to tracking when plants are in bloom.

Dan Slagell, MIRA RPAC Committee member and U of I Extension Master Gardener, along with the MIRA RPAC task force, Ron Briscoe, and Karen Stailey-Lander, Chair of MIRA RPAC, coordinated the installing the 230 plants with assistance from the Town of Normal and U of I Extension Horticulturalists. MIRA identified this project through their Illinois Association of Realtors® Government Affairs Director, Kristie Engerman working with Mercy Davison, Normal Town Planner. Dan Slagell said, “The need was brought to us through a meeting with Normal to discuss grant opportunities. MIRA found the Unity Community Center Pollinator Garden to be a perfect fit for the Placemaking Grant and were excited to assist in the project.”

“Realtors® live, work and volunteer in their communities and take immense pride in working to improve them,” said Karen Stailey-Lander, MIRA RPAC Chair. “Placemaking can help foster healthier, more social and economically viable communities. It creates places where people feel a strong stake in their neighborhoods and are committed to making things better. This grant will allow us to address areas in our community that need enhancement and revitalization and create a place where friends and neighbors can come together.”

Town of Normal’ Horticulturists’ Bobbie Jones and Nathan Bair followed the principles they learned from Roy Diblik’s book "The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden." Diblik is a noted plant-man who designs lush, gorgeous, but low-maintenance gardens. He actually started the gardening trend of using plants that work well with each other without a lot of gardening maintenance.

Bobbie and Nathan have been successful in using this principle throughout the town and have created beautiful green spaces and are equipped to tackle not so garden friendly areas. They knew this principle of low maintenance; proper plants selection and wildlife gardening would be a perfect fit for University of Illinois Extensions Unity Community Center.

University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup, says “I love this garden principle of plant selection and plant combination because it is beneficial to wildlife, but it also establishes much faster than most other designs. By this time next year, Unity’s front landscape will look like it has been in place for three or four years. “

“We are always so thankful to our community members and organizations for their continued support of the U of I Extensions Unity Community Center program. It is through new support of such organizations like the Mid-Illinois Realtors® Association and sustained support through our funding partners State Farm and the Town of Normal that we can continue to help our youth excel and be the best versions of themselves possible, “says Bobbie Lewis-Sibley, U of I Extension Director.

Placemaking grants are awarded to local and state Realtor® associations to help them and their members create new public spaces and destinations in a community, like turning a parking spot into a people spot (parklet) or a vacant lot into a pocket park or garden. Realtor® associations and their Realtor® members are actively engaged in the community and know the neighborhoods and the properties that would benefit most from these placemaking projects. For more information on the Unity Community Center “Unity Garden”, visit https://www.midillinoisrealtors.com/community-involvement/.

To find out more about National Association of Realtors® placemaking program visit, https://www.realtoractioncenter.org/Placemaking.


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