Courtesy Community Impact News
At first glance, the flower-filled planter’s that line Morton street, the lush landscaping at City Hall and the 90A gateway sign welcoming people to Richmond might all seem unrelated, but each has been a labor of love for Richmond residents Pat Pittman and Barbara Johnson.
As co-affiliate coordinators of Keep Richmond Beautiful, a committee of the Historic Richmond Association, the pair have worked together on beautification projects across the city since 2014.
“There is so much going on out here, everywhere you look there is development, and the enthusiasm [for Keep Richmond Beautiful] is picking up with people,” Johnson said. “We are not the sleepy city that we used to be.”
One of the 390 affiliates of Keep Texas Beautiful, the nonprofit Keep Richmond Beautiful works to better the city through beautification, recycling and litter prevention. Keep Texas Beautiful is the largest environmental improvement organization in the state.
Johnson said the minute she received the materials to take on the project, she didn’t think twice.
“Even though I didn’t know what in the world it was all about when it was given to me, I just thought, ‘Well okay, here I go!”
The first challenge Johnson faced involved a bylaws requirement as one of the eight steps to forming the Richmond-based nonprofit. Johnson said it was because of this challenge that she met Pittman; after meeting at a rotary club presentation, Pittman offered to help Johnson with the bylaws.
“We’ve been joined at the hip ever since,” Johnson said.
Their first major project involved a facelift to the landscaping at City Hall Park. Johnson said they worked with the city’s master gardeners and community volunteers to completely re-landscape the area.
Now, visitors can find a myriad of native plants, a drip system and a unique education tool that allows residents to scan barcodes on plants to read up on them.
Wessendorff Park and George Park are two other parks the pair has restored and maintained over the last three years. Other projects include maintaining the planters along Morton Street and “Shred Day,” which encourages recycling within the community through document shredding.
“This year was our third year, and [Shred Day] has become so popular that…we had to turn people away,” Pittman said. “We are going to do a second one on October 7 and we will have two trucks this time.”
The work Pittman and Johnson have done has not gone unnoticed. In 2016, they received third place recognition for the Governor’s Community Achievement award. More recently, they were awarded the Community Spirit Award from Mayor Evalyn Moore at the 2017 State of the City in June.
“I was thrilled, and we were speechless,” Johnson said of the award. “Our mayor, our city manager and everybody at the city I think are our biggest fan club. They love what we are doing.”
Pittman and Johnson both agree that what they do for the community is often laborious. They both chose to volunteer because they see the potential of their city and enjoy doing the work.
“I really believe in [Keep Richmond Beautiful’s] purpose and all the potential things that we could do to help this city,” Pittman said. “So, like Barbara, it’s not work for me—it’s enjoyment.”