A Lake Bluff Company owned by a Highland Park man is working with one of its Lake Forest customers to create a learning garden at a North Chicago school.
Sound complicated? Not really.
Employees from Lake Bluff-based Scott Byron & Co. spent seven hours on July 30 landscaping the grounds and creating the learning garden at Forrestal Elementary School in North Chicago. The program was arranged by North Chicago Community Partners.
“We were looking for a service project and we contacted Jennifer Grumhaus at North Chicago Community Partners,” said Jim Gorsline, the company’s vice president of operations. “She lives in Lake Forest and she’s a customer of ours.”
Grumhaus is the executive director of North Chicago Community Partners. The organization works with members of the community to provide needed programs for North Chicago Community Unit School District 187 beyond what the district offers, according to Mandy Love, the organization’s assistant executive director.
“It’s important for a company to give back,” said Scott Byron, a Highland Park resident who founded the company 30 years ago and still runs it. “If you can help the people in your community it doesn’t get better than that.”
More than 75 people—25 percent of Scott Byron & Co.’s total workforce—planted eight large trees, landscaped the front of the school with perennials as well as other plants and built the learning garden with hundreds of plants that will produce flowers year after year, according to Gorsline.
The learning garden is a newly landscaped area that occupies the empty outdoor space of a U-shaped part of the school building between classrooms. Before the Scott Byron & Co. volunteers arrived, the area was overgrown and unusable, according to Meghan McDonald, a landscape architect and the company’s design manager.
“We designed a garden the children can see from their classroom and get a sensory experience outside,” McDonald said. “They can touch and smell. The can see how a garden grows.”
Forrestal Principal Inez Mitchell said she thought her school, which educates children in kindergarten through second grade, was getting a refreshed landscape. When she arrived Saturday morning, she found out there would be more.
“I had no idea,” Mitchell said. “When I got here (today) it was all overgrown and there was a skunk. Now the children have a laboratory for ecology. They can do science experiments, go out there and read. They can touch the plants and feel the texture. They can smell them.”
Mitchell said the students will also be able to use the area at lunch time to read to each other. She said she is also excited about the new look of the grounds, especially the impact it will have on students and staff.
“Children like nice things,” Mitchell said. “They’ll say, ‘oh Miss Mitchell, see the pretty flowers.’ They’ll tell their parents to come and see our pretty school. The teachers spend more time here than at home during the school year. This is what they see when they come to their second home.”
The company donated its labor and also provided all the supplies, according to Gorsline.
Scott Byron & Co. is not the only local organization that spends time making a difference in the North Chicago schools, according to Love. She said there are more than 50 of them including Lake Forest High School, Lake Forest College, Glenbrook North High School, Trinity International University and Abbvie, Inc.
Love said Abbvie sent more than 1,000 employees for a A Week of Possibilities” in June to do extensive work on all of the District 187 facilities and donated in excess of $500,000 in the effort.