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NICHOLS - With $5,000 from Lowe's Toolbox for Education Program, expect the landscape around Nichols Elementary School to change dramatically.
Thanks to Principal Sheri Hamilton and District Grant Writer Juliann Vachon, students and staff at the small western Bullitt County school are eager for spring to arrive so they can spruce up the grounds.
"The mission of Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant program fit seamlessly with Mrs. Hamilton's vision to revamp Nichols outdoor space and make it more welcoming," Vachon said.
"We plan to transform the outdoor space in front of our school into a beautifully landscaped, welcoming environment more representative of our thriving community," Hamilton described. "The project will entail new landscaping near our entrance and new student picnic tables."
Four of those rectangular patio picnic tables at a cost of $675 will take up over half, or $2,700, of the grant. Plans also include 20 knockout rose plants ($500), high-grade mulch ($1,000), landscape edging ($754) and other items.
The total project cost is $5,454. There is $300 raised plus donations and volunteers will offset the remaining expenses.
Without this Lowe's grant, it would have been difficult for Nichols to complete its outdoor makeover," Vachon said. "We're grateful for Lowe's support in this project."
Hamilton has a clear vision of how the grant funds will be invested.
"Nichols sits along the main thoroughfare in our small, rural town and has long been a pillar of the close-knit local community," she said. "Our school sign is located in the middle of our front yard, and while nice, we hope some improvements will make it more attention-grabbing."
The ground around the sign will be built up with fill dirt. Flowers will be planted along with the installation of new landscape edging for a more defined look. To complete the new front entrance landscape design, potted plants and generous mulching will be added.
The picnic tables will allow students to enjoy lunch outdoors in nice weather.
"The tables will sit on a patio that overlooks the front yard," Hamilton explained. "Faculty will offer students the chance to eat outside as a reward for good behavior. Teachers and aides may also use the tables for small-group instruction when appropriate."
Anytime a building used for community use is refurbished, there is as much pride invested as finances.
"We have high expectations for our outdoor space," Hamilton said. "This project constitutes the second phase of a larger beautification plan that also includes new playground equipment and landscaping upgrades in other areas around our building."
Such a project would not be possible without the commitment of a close-knit community.
"About 25 volunteers, many of them residents who do not currently have children in school, volunteered time and resources to complete the first phase of landscaping upgrades earlier this year," Hamilton said. "We expect at least as many, if not more, to participate in this second phase."
She is also counting on help from the funding agency.
"This project offers multiple opportunities to partner with our local Lowe's store," Hamilton said. "We can use help from Lowe's employees in selecting and delivering the landscape edging, flowers, mulch and picnic tables. Employees could also come out for the volunteer day to provide manpower and expertise as we plant flowers, lay the weed-blocking material, install the edging and assemble the picnic tables."
The district discussed the project with local Lowe's store manager Kurt Benebig and found him very supportive.
"Mr. Benebig enthusiastically offered to assemble a group of Lowe's employee volunteers to help on the project day," Hamilton said in the grant application. "He also said the store can help us with selecting and delivering project materials. We see this as a great opportunity to form a positive community partnership with our local Lowe's."
In her first year leading Nichols, Hamilton has worked to raise nearly $10,000.
Nichols received $4,000 from the Edith Grigsby Trust for technology, was awarded $500 from the Bullitt County Chamber of Commerce for Showcase of Schools and is now the recipient of $5,000 from Lowe's.
Add to that total a $750 art grant garnered by teacher Elizabeth Yates along with a $1,000 grant from the Bullitt County Foundation for Excellence in Public Education for teacher Amy Ferrell.
And more could be coming Nichols' way.
"We still have some grants out there we are waiting on," Hamilton said.
Bullitt County Public Schools has nearly 13,000 students in grades kindergarten through 12. There are 25 school facilities, a certified staff of over 850 and a classified staff of over 850 working every school day to make the district the leader in educational excellence.