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Community Service Project Creates Atrium Oasis at Veterans Memorial Middle School

On a crisp fall morning in Blue Island, students in the Art and Builders Clubs at Veterans Memorial Middle School began their day decorating pavers in Mary Doane’s art room in preparation for the outdoor atrium renovation that took place on September 22. Courtesy of a $1,000 grant provided by Johnson Controls, a global diversified technology and industrial leader that supports environmental stewardship and leadership development projects through their employee volunteer program, Blue Sky Involve, employees of the Oak Brook and Milwaukee offices lended their support to the middle school by participating in a community service project to transform the atrium into a sustainable garden where “rooms” will be created and eventually, the garden will be handicap accessible. Armed with the proper supplies and a can-do spirit, students worked alongside Johnson Controls employees throughout the day and students were assigned different stations in order to beautify the space.

“This is my second year working with Johnson Controls working along the idea of creating a sustainable garden,” said Doane. “This project started with painted furniture and now the idea is to get whole classes outside in the fall and spring as kids love working outside. We also hope to have picnic tables and a reading room in this area; it is very much a work in progress and thanks to Val Kehoe of Christy Webber Landscapes, we have been guided in the right direction.”

In addition to the sprucing up of the garden area, Geoff Bevington, a member of Cartoonists Across America & The World, created two murals in the atrium and also added some creative touches to a picnic table with help from the students. A self taught artist who creates both small and large murals, Bevington, a marketing director by trade, donated his time and talent to the atrium renovation.

“This is something I always wanted to do and I was inspired by my grandfather who created murals in Los Angeles,” said Bevington. “I feel that creativity is used in every discipline and I wanted to do something where the kids could be involved and it’s a way to use comics and humor to promote literacy.” Bevington also signed and dedicated his book, "Steve the Dog and the Winged Tiger", to the middle school.

“The kids are fantastic and I’m impressed with their level of energy and talent,” said Julie Denise, corporate portfolio manager at Johnson Controls. “It was a good day for all of us and it’s amazing what was accomplished here.”

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