Our Customers are Making a Big Difference in Their Communities
We are humbled by our customers’ desire to give back. They are doing some remarkable things right in their own backyards, such as building parks, playgrounds, and communities. And providing housing for the underprivileged, recovering from natural disasters, and improving facilities for our nation’s?veterans. The three outstanding people profiled in this story are driven by a truly inspiring passion for their communities and are supported by not-for- profit organizations. Their stories serve as inspiring examples of good ideas put to work.
After reading the stories, readers have voted for their favorite community project. The winner will receive a skid steer or compact track loader with a Worksite Pro? attachment to put some muscle behind his or her community project.
With the support of the Park Department, Will has put her heart and soul into enlisting volunteers to transform Whipple Creek Regional Park. Over the last seven-and-a-half years, volunteers have donated 8,000 hours to rerouting and improving trails. Mud and woodchips are dug out and replaced with gravel to provide a harder, longer-lasting surface. The work is extremely labor intensive and mostly done by hand using shovels and wheelbarrows, with occasional help from volunteers who provide tractors or packhorses.
Since restoration began in 2011,?annual visits have grown from 1,000?to 54,000 and continue to grow at a rate of 10,000 visits a year.?The park’s?four-and-a-half miles of trails are now available year-round, making the park more accessible to everyone. Bicyclists, equestrians, runners, hikers, and search-and-rescue teams in training use it every day.?Disabled veterans ride horses here for therapy.?Nearby schools use the park for outdoor classrooms, and the local high school’s?cross-country team uses this park as its home course.
"When community members use this beautiful park, you can see it in their faces. They look rejuvenated. Anita Will is the driving force that pushed and pushed to make this park what it is today. She’s doing this for the whole community and for generations to come.”
– Tyler Castle, President, Whipple Creek Restoration Committee
"Our veterans come to us quite disabled, and through horse-riding therapy, they become much more able to walk, work, and do many other things they haven’t been able to do in years. Whipple Creek provides a quiet, serene retreat within an urban area that truly helps in their treatment.”
– Denice Morrison, Windhaven Therapeutic Riding
Only a few blocks from the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent to beautiful ocean-access properties, Leisure Lane is a highly depressed neighborhood of mobile homes built during the 1950s. The mobile homes have badly deteriorated — many ?are barely standing and have been condemned. The area attracts many homeless people, squatters, drug users, and others who have lost their way.?To date, West Pasco Habitat has bought 40 of the 120 Leisure Lane homes. The project is currently in the first phase of demolition and preparing the ground for the new homes.
The project will be completed in phases. Six homes will be built for six families at a time, over a period of three to five years. Appelgrijn believes that making an immediate, positive impact on the neighborhood will attract more new families. He also hopes the Leisure Lane project will provide a model for future Habitat projects within the community and across the country. The project is already garnering wide community support, with a recent event attracting over 50 volunteers, who bring not just their hands, but their hearts.
"This program was designed for families like us who struggle to pay the bills and stay ahead. It will help us thrive and grow, and it will revitalize an entire community. I was ecstatic when I heard we were chosen."
– Nicole Chiuchiolo, Habitat Home recipient in the Leisure Lane neighborhood
"Kobus has energized our whole community. He has a vision of how to take a neighborhood that has struggled and turn it into a jewel of Pasco County. That’s just magical."
– Jack Mariano, Pasco County Commissioner
Clearing dead trees is not covered by insurance, and it’s?hard, backbreaking work, so there is still much to be done. Working together with the nonprofit organization Black Forest Together, Behnke is helping homeowners who lack adequate resources to clean up their properties, deal with fire erosion, plant new trees, and mitigate the damage of future fires. All of this work, from cutting down trees to hauling branches to a chipper, is presently done by hand.
In addition to helping restore the natural beauty of the forest, removing the trees will make the community a much safer place to live. The dead, dry trees present a significant safety hazard — constant high winds can cause heavy limbs (“widow?makers”) to snap off and potentially fall on someone. Also, treeless lots or lots with damaged trees are worth significantly less. By making Black Forest green again, Behnke is helping residents reclaim the value of the properties that they lost to the fire.
"This project is not just about rebuilding properties. This is about rebuilding lives. And there is no better person to lead this than Neil. People are going to see the difference he’s making and want to be a part of it."
– Jake Skifstad, police officer on duty during the Black Forest fire
"The times we live in are stressful and filled with negativity. Fortunately, we have someone like Neil. He’s a hardworking family man who is always willing to help others, no matter what their needs are. He is the definition of selfless.”
– Matt Sutton, friend of Neil Behnke