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Volunteers revamp pollinator garden at Towers High School

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Volunteers revamp pollinator garden at Towers High School

DeKalb County School Board Vice Chair Diijon DaCosta moves bags of soil at Georgia United Credit Union’s School Crashers school makeover event Saturday, July 16 at Towers High School. Photo courtesy of Georgia United Credit Union.

Greater Decatur, GA — Over 40 volunteers gathered at Towers High School on July 16 to finish revamping a pollinator garden and constructing additions to an outdoor classroom as part of the Georgia United Foundation and Georgia United Credit Union’s School Crashers grant program.

Towers is one of five Georgia schools to receive a 2022 School Crashers grant and the only one in DeKalb County this year, according to a press release.

Volunteers laid down weed fabric, weeded and put mulch down in the gardens, mounted butterfly houses, assembled five picnic tables, put together a storage shed, message board and compost bin, and did various landscaping tasks.

“Thank you all for being here today [on July 16], for loving the Towers community enough to give up this beautiful hot Saturday to be out here digging in the dirt, doing whatever you need to do to make sure the Towers Titans have a place to come to, learn about landscaping, to incorporate those STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities into what we’re doing, to use the food that’s grown in this garden to serve our greater community,” said Towers Principal Tiffany Sims.

DeKalb County School Board members Vickie Turner, Diijon DaCosta and Diedre Pierce attended the event, along with Interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley.

“I could not, not be here,” Tinsley said.

With declining bee populations in metro Atlanta and many families facing food insecurity heightened by inflation, this project will help Towers students learn about growing their own food while also providing space for more outdoor learning activities.

“Back in the fall of 2014, the principal at the time had some gentlemen from the USDA that came through, and they asked if anyone in the school was interested in starting a garden,” said Lt. Colonel Ryan Calloway, senior instructor Air Force JROTC at Towers.

The garden started with the planting of muscadines with a USDA grant. It has grown thanks to various grants. In addition to the pollinator plants, the garden also features a variety of vegetables and fruits, including tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. The garden is cared for by the school’s Air Force JROTC cadets and 4H club.

“From 2014 to 2022, we have grown quite a bit,” Calloway said. “Everything we grow, we either give to the school’s culinary arts department for use in the school, and we also donate to other organizations that provide food to the community.”

The School Crashers grant is also funding a makeover of the career and counseling center at the school. Combined with a grant from Mohawk Flooring, the space is being transformed into a modern center to address students’ academic needs, social and personal issues, and guide them in career and collage planning.

The project was expected to be complete before students returning for the academic year.

“By the end of the 2022 projects, the School Crasher grant program will have impacted 63 schools and will represent between $1.7 and $1.8 million invested,” said Liz Riffert, Georgia United’s community development officer. “The grants awarded this year will impact 35,000 students in five counties.”

Georgia United Foundation is the charitable giving arm of Georgia United Credit Union, and School Crashers is the foundation’s largest community service program.

For Georgia United Event Coordinator Amy Jones, the volunteer event held special meaning as she graduated from Towers in 1983.

“I have a special place in my heart for this school,” said Jones, who now lives in Chamblee. Surveying the scene among the flower beds at Towers, she said, “The students are absolutely going to love this.”

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