Amid the buzz of a chainsaw and the whine of a drill, employees from GlaxoSmithKline, the Bitter Root Land Trust and the Town of Hamilton hung signs, pulled houndstongue, installed bird houses, and removed dead brush from Steve Powell Park on Wednesday.
The work was done in conjunction with GSK’s annual “Orange Day” of community service, and was the perfect example of private, public and non-profit groups working together.
“There’s something about these public recreation projects that allow the community … to enjoy the Bitterroot Valley and access the amenities here that make this place special,” noted Gavin Ricklefs with the Bitter Root Land Trust. “It’s a community resource and it takes a community to create and care for it.”
Michael Kauffman, site controller for GSK, said that the Belgian-based multi-national pharmaceutical company provides its employees one paid day of community service each year. This year, about 100 employees volunteered to pull weeds and perform maintenance at four Hamilton parks.
“GSK really is a generous company and encourages us to volunteer in the community and be involved,” Kauffman said. “We have 110,000 people around the world paid by the company to do volunteer work. Today is our Orange Day (the company’s flagship color) and we all try to do the work on the same day; there’s a kind of synergy there.”
While it’s good for the community, it’s also good for the GSK employees to get out of the office and work together.
“I’m a finance guy, so I may walk by somebody and say hi, but not really have a conversation,” Kauffman said. “This is a good time to connect with people I don’t normally get to talk to.”
At Steve Powell Park, about 50 people pitched in to perk up the place. The centerpieces are new educational and entrance signs designed by local artists Karen Savory and Jen Ogden, and built by Hamilton High School seniors in the CAD/CAM class.
“The kids spent the entire semester laminating the scraps of oak to make the signs, and converting the artists’ work into digital CAD files” that were overlaid on the wood to cut out letters and images, Ricklefs said. “Their work is amazing.”
It took about a dozen volunteers to install the three signs, which celebrate and explain the effort to protect and preserve water, wildlife and working lands.
“The purpose of this place is to be a natural amenity for residents,” Ricklefs said. “The signs let people learn why this park is not just important for recreation, but for the natural resources that benefit from our care.”