By: Karla Jensen
It only takes one person to launch real change and that’s exactly what happened in 2014 when one of Downtown Beaver Dam Inc.’s members, Julie Hogan, expressed an interest in celebrating Earth Day. She rallied other passionate community members, and an annual community event was born. It Is now 2015, less than a year later, and dozens of community members, businesses, civic organizations, churches and schools are engaged in the planning of a week’s worth of earth friendly educational opportunities and awareness for Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.
“Downtown Beaver Dam Inc. (DBDI) is a group of passionate business owners, leaders and individuals who want to make an impact on showcasing how we can live, work and play in our valued downtown. Earth Day events attract families and people of all ages to a central location to come together to show we do care about how our actions impact the earth,” said Hogan, owner of Reconnect Spiritual Sanctuary. The group plans to host a community-wide cleanup, tree planting, presentations about ways to improve and preserve the environment, and will welcome youth and adults to an interactive outdoor market on Saturday, April 25 from 10 am to 2 pm. “Our goal is to showcase 50 vendors who wish to share anything related to preserving the earth, recycling, and organic and sustainable living,” shared Julie Zahn, owner of Northwoods Casket, a company that plants 100 trees for every casket they build. “From health to composting to fitness and farming, we intend to educate while having fun through this kind of Earth Day celebration,” added Zahn.
While engaging the community in challenges to cut down on their use of electricity and trying to reduce the amount of garbage families or workplaces generate, DBDI’s Earth Day Committee is finding creative ways to involve just about everyone. “Wayland Academy and the Beaver Dam Unified School District are both asking students to get involved by asking their ecology clubs and environmental groups to help plant trees, provide art work for awareness on downtown business windows or form a community cleanup group,” added Karla Jensen, Director of Auxiliary Programs and Outreach at Wayland Academy. “This is an intergenerational movement from all corners of the community, from city government creating a list of areas to tidy up, to a local landscaper, Matt Weineke, donating his time to create a multi-phase plan to improve curb appeal and incorporate more foliage,” added Jensen.
Jessica Stortz, elementary school art teacher, has touched base with grocery stores to partner with school children who will create Earth Day designs on grocery bags to be distributed as part of the event. Dave Edwards, retired DNR staff, will be hosting a presentation at the Chamber of Commerce entitled “Making the Connection: Public Health and the Environment.” The event encompasses special sales from private businesses and restaurants, demonstrations for kids, and perhaps even a possible document shredding event downtown as well. “It’s amazing to grow this much from the original event in 2014. I can’t wait for next year,” added Julie Hogan.
Although notable events will be ongoing during the week of April 20-25, the larger community culmination will occur Saturday, April 25 when the Earth Day Committee hopes to see everyone downtown. Maps will be distributed the day of, and possibly the week prior, so everyone can discover the many family-friendly educational presentations, plastic bag exchanges, games, tree planting sites, as well as the locations of the vendor booths. The “DBDI booth will be grand central station for all information about this exciting event and will be located directly in front of the Chamber of Commerce on south Spring Street,” stated Josiah Vilmin, President of DBDI and owner of Black Waters Coffee, a downtown business. The entire Earth Day Committee encourages community involvement with additional ideas; contact committee chairperson Julie Zahn at Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org or call (920) 344-9933. Earth Day Beaver Dam, sponsored by Nature’s Pathways Magazine, Northwoods Casket, Black Waters Coffee and Reconnect Spiritual Sanctuary.