Project Plant Celebrates 30 Years

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The city of Athens is known for its beauty, and volunteers from Project Plant helped make it that way. The organization is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Alvi McWilliams is one of five women who started Project Plant. She said the group got its start after a fire on Court Street left the city charred and bleak.

"Downtown looked sad. That was the inspiration," she said during a planting session at the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We started to improve the economic and even the civic vitality of Athens, Ohio. It was 1984 when we started meeting."

Project Plant is now a 20-member non-profit group that recieves an annual stipend to plant entry ways and city landmarks to welcome visitors and cheer citizens.

But most of Project Plant's green comes from its deep roots in the community.

"The biggest contribution for all 30 years has been from the citizens of Athens," McWilliams said. "Once a year, we send out a newsletter telling about what we've don and asking for contributions. Two percent is considered a good response to direct mail. We get something around 60 percent, and I'm being conservative about that number."

The group recieves donations from 200-300 community members and businessmen each year.

"It's had such an impact and you can see the impact happening," McWilliams said. "You start with not much and you end with a result. It's very satisfying on a lot of levels.

"One, you get to play in the dirt – a pleasure which never goes away. And you get to do it with your friends. We play very well together in the dirt."

After washing off the dirt from their weekly planting session, the members of Project Plant reward themselves by gathering together for pastries and conversation.