You could call it a growing effort.
It started when Hartford Fire Capt. Ivan Villalobos of Engine Co. 7, wanted to improve the look and landscape of his firehouse in the North End.
Villalobos became connected to the Connecticut Valley Garden Club with a goal to beautify Hartford firehouses.
The club offered to purchase plants, benches, planters for all of Hartford’s firehouses, with the full support of Fire Chief Rodney Barco and the Department of Public Works, which provided the mulch through Mark Dowd.
As the partnership between the CVGC volunteers and Engine Co. 7 firefighters proved successful, the club is now working to get all the firehouses to partner with them in the beautification projects.
The CVGC volunteers recently worked with Hartford’s Engine Co. 10 firefighters at 510 Franklin Ave., as the second firehouse to be beautified with more than 50 arborvitae, perennials and shrubs.
Barbara Kiefer, co-chair of CVGC’s Civic Relations Committee, said the partnership is a perfect combination of what public and private entities can do when it comes to working together to make improvements.
“No city in the country [or] in the world has got enough money to do everything that everybody wants and needs for beautification,” she said. “So that’s where the partnership with the Garden Club can really help. Our Garden Club is 100 years old, we run a lot of civil projects, we raise money so that we can do civic projects.”
According to their website, the non-profit club “promotes knowledge, interest and participation in five key garden-related areas: civic projects, conservation, floral design, horticulture, and photography.” They learn “through a variety of meetings, guest speakers, hands-on workshops and field trips - along with volunteering for a range of community outreach programs to continue to build a substantial legacy of civic projects.”
CVGC member Doreen Fundiller-Zweig said it was a lot of fun for her working with the firefighters.
“The firefighters [spend] a lot of time at the firehouses, [so] to make their surroundings a lot more pleasant for them to just take their breaks and afternoons. Just whatever kind of respite really makes a difference to…beautify…,” she said.
Firefighter Michael Cedenó said that he enjoyed the day working with the gardening club volunteers.
“I actually like it. It’s something different. A different pace…[We] get a little green thumb and spruce up the firehouse, since they kind of rip up everything over here. [It would] be nice to bring some flowers and bring some green over here. A real change,” Cedenó said.
Ultimately, Kiefer says this partnership is just a small gift of appreciation for the firefighters, who are potentially putting their lives on the line on a daily basis.
“These are the guys running in our houses when we are running out…it’s a small gift,” she said.
She said her biggest wish is that all of the firehouses will participate in the partnership, as their program will be in place for the next two years.
“So what we’re really hoping is that all the firehouses participate,” she said. “We’ve just met with a third firehouse yesterday. And so we’ll be working on that in the spring… I think once they see what other houses look like…they may want to join in, hold their hand up and say, ‘yeah, we can do that.’”