BELPRE - The city was ablaze Friday evening as the community supported a new beautification program through a "Light up the town" luminaria service.
"The response has been amazing," said Leslie Pittenger, organizer of Belpre in Bloom. "We sold out of luminaria kits and are overwhelmed by the support from the community."
The event was the first fundraiser for Belpre in Bloom, a community beautification and cleanup project, which sold the luminaria kits to be set up outside of homes, businesses and other buildings and lit together at 6 p.m. Friday.
Luminaria line the sidewalk along Washington Boulevard near the Belpre Senior Citizens Center and Howes Grove Park Friday during the first “Light up the town” event. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
The group sold all 100 luminaria kits, which included 10 sets of bags and candles with sand, with the supporters being residents, businesses and Belpre Elementary School.
"The elementary school was beautiful," Pittenger said. "If you went down (Ohio 7) and looked at the school, it was amazing."
Belpre Elementary School purchased 15 luminaria kits and set out homemade ones to total about 400. The light displays lined Rockland Avenue in front of the former Stone Elementary School to snake down the long drive from the street to the school and back around.
The number of luminaria needed for the project was decided by students in the science and math classes at the school, according to Principal Bernie Boice.
In order to raise the money to purchase the kits, the students held fundraisers in-house that included a hat day Tuesday, which was the last day of classes before the holiday vacation.
Pittenger added that Belpre in Bloom asked everyone who purchased luminaria kits to place them along streets, driveways and walkways in an effort to light up the entire city.
"It was nice to see the beautification and improvement projects be supported, but the best part of it was to see how the community worked together to 'light up the town,'" said Pittenger. "It was really great to see everyone come out and help set up the luminaria at the school and their homes."
Belpre in Bloom is a volunteer organization in its first year. As part of the larger America in Bloom, a charitable organization to promote nationwide beautification through education and community involvement, both local and state groups meet these goals by encouraging the use of flowers, plants, trees, and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements.
The five larger projects the volunteer organization has chosen to focus on this year are welcome areas at the five entrances to the city, fencing renovation along Ohio 7/U.S. 50, sidewalk and streetscape cleanup, planters and flower plantings in city parks and a community garden to allow residents to grow vegetables.
With the success of this first fundraiser, Pittenger hopes to see the program grow in the coming years.
"This was the start of making Belpre more beautiful than it already is," Pittenger said.