By Gari Voss
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) awarded nearly $1.8 million to 21 Rural Development Fund Grants designed “to promote the sustainability of land-based industries and support infrastructure that benefits rural communities.” One of those awards was presented to Beautify Pullman to assist them in developing their Town Square.
Beautify Pullman is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that has been working on beautification and restoration in Pullman, MI. Even before organizing in 2020, the members had focused their attention on the Four Corner intersection at 109th Avenue and 56th Street, the Historic Lee Township Cemetery, the Pullman Post Office, Ravenswood Park and other township parks.
For the past 25 years, the northeast corner of 109th Ave. and 56th St. has sat empty. But ideas have been voiced regarding ways to develop this parcel to enhance the intersection and provide a community gathering space. In 2021, a beautiful, historic mural was designed on the southeast corner. The northwest corner houses a vintage gas station that holds the Historic Museum.
MDARD envisioned assisting small communities like Pullman achieve their dreams. The grants promote land-based industries such as food, agriculture, forestry, petroleum production, workforce training, rural capacity building, business development and infrastructure that will benefit rural communities.
Under the guidance of President Deb Laraway, Vice-President Shirley Kay, Secretary Judy Neafsey, Treasurer Patricia Conway, and Director Marlana Garcia, numerous members of Pullman and the surrounding area have identified projects of significant impact to the community, raised funds, and coordinated the efforts of numerous stakeholders.
Developing a Town Square in the middle of town required conversations with the Allegan County Road Commission to coordinate with their plans to reconstruct the 109th/56th Street interaction and add curbs and sidewalks. In addition, there were talks with Pullman Elementary Principal Melissa Corona to determine ways the students could contribute to the park. Other groups like Linking Center and the many volunteers who have helped in the past were also consulted.
Treasurer Conway shared, “The grant was due in mid-November 2021. We laid out our plans for a social hub where the community could hold events and activities. Downtown Pullman has no developed parks or greenspaces to gather. The development of this ½ acre parcel will be a nice addition to the community.”
The grant requires a matching component of at least 30%. Beautify Pullman needs to raise $56,000 in matching funds to complete the Town Square as planned.
“We hope to sign the grant agreement with MDARD this week,” stated Conway. “Then we have a timeline for using the funds and completing the work. The plan is to have everything done by early October 2022.”
“This is like having Christmas and birthdays all wrapped together,” exclaimed Laraway. “It is so nice to have a large pool of money to finance a significant project for the Pullman community!”
For the volunteers of Pullman, the work has just begun. With the increase in materials even since the grant was presented in November 2022, Beautify Pullman Board Members were recalculating and having discussion with contractors and vendors to complete the project in budget.
Ways to support not only the Town Square, but other projects the public is invited to participate in the:
Mid-March Online Auction: For details watch the Beautify Pullman Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Beautify-Pullman or website www.beautifypullman.org.
BBQ Chicken Dinner, Sat., April 2, 2022: The Pullman VFW will host the dinner, bake sale, raffles and the culmination of the Online Auction.
Donate Baked Goods to the Beautify Pullman Spring Fundraiser on Saturday, April 2nd.
Volunteer Clean-up and Planting Days: These opportunities will be announced as the weather permits.
MDARD has been awarding grants since 1921 to assist communities in numerous endeavors.
“I’m proud that so much of the work at MDARD remains focused on helping our rural communities thrive through sustainable approaches,” said MDARD Director Gary McDowell. “When we can invest in our communities, it allows Michigan to continue to expand its economic footprint here at home and globally.”