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By Tom Spalding, Boulevard Place Food Pantry Volunteer

Have you seen what’s springing up down low at the Boulevard Place Food Pantry? With the warmer weather, we’re underway with new exterior landscaping designed to be pleasing to the eye and friendly to the environment.

This beautification effort is led by Mary Durkin, a certified Marion County Master Gardener and member of the Indiana Native Plant Society. (See video of Mary.) In late May, Mary led fellow volunteers in planting a blend of functional and ornamental perennials under a bed of leafy mulch. A series of nourishing rains have helped to get these green beauties started strong with an ode to the small creatures we hope to attract. A sign reads: Pollinator Garden | No Chemicals – Hand Weed Only.

This pollinator garden begins with an Eastern Bluestar, with its eventual star-shaped blue flowers guarding the southwestern corner facing 42nd Street. This plant is one of over a dozen different types that are ankle-high now but will mature and bloom with color and purpose over time.

“Two of my passions are giving people food that’s healthy as well as healthy living for our wildlife—our pollinators,” Mary explains. “I have been able to combine those two passions in this project at the Boulevard Place Food Pantry: beautifying the new building but also providing the types of native plants that will bring beautiful birds and butterflies.”

Boulevard Place Pantry Director Cindy Brown is thrilled with the result. The renovation and expansion of the pantry offered the opportunity to ring the facility with greenery. “The beautification of the property is a win-win that makes our clients feel more welcome and helps us to blend in with our wonderful neighborhood,” says Cindy.

The pollinator garden is just the latest feature of a renovation and addition that marked its 11th month in June and will continue up through the ribbon-cutting and open house, which has been scheduled for Aug. 6. The pantry makeover project will also include flower boxes under the exterior windows on the east and south sides, featuring fresh flowers changed out seasonally. Mary made sure that the pollinator garden includes the plant’s name in case any Hoosier green thumb seeks inspiration for their own properties.

When walking the property’s western edge, or rear, you’ll see the Eastern Bluestar alongside the rear of the pantry facing Ramsey Park. You’ll also see: Sweet Black-eyed Susans, Obedient Plants, Swamp Milkweeds (that will be enjoyed by the monarch butterflies) and Candelabra Plants (Culver Root) prized for their big, white spiky flowers. Continuing north, you’ll find Queen of the Prairie (with its pink fluffy flowers) and bee-friendly Turtlehead flowers.

At the northwest corner, thirsty Swamp Rose Mallow will take advantage to its proximity to the gutter downspout, as will a Buttonbush, a multi-branched shrub that also loves the wet environment. Creek Sedges (a perennial mound also known as carex amphibola) face the residences along with Gatsby Pink Oak Leaf Hydrangeas all along the northern edge.

The Indiana Native Plant Society has a volunteer-led mission to promote the appreciation, preservation, scientific study and use of plants native to the Hoosier state. INPS members, along with others, including the Marion County Master Gardeners Association, whose motto is “Helping Others Grow,” donated plants, expertise and inspiration.

What’s Next: An open house will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 6. The public is welcome.

Timeline: Pantry Progress

  • Fall 2019: Prior to the official groundbreaking, the roof over the attic and client shopping area is shored up and the attic remodeled with new lighting and storage space. Crews also strip away the old beige-colored vinyl siding.
  • Summer 2020: After a groundbreaking that included Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Witchger family (our major renovation donors) on July 7, the land is cleared and the concrete-block foundation that comprises the warehouse is built. The A-frame roof and ceiling is installed so that all 1,500 feet of the addition is under cover, with a concrete floor poured.
  • Fall 2020: The original client entrance and former windows are demolished to allow for a wider entry. Right before Christmas, our new square shape is on display.
  • Winter 2021: We pick out the colors and begin moving in shelves and food into the warehouse addition, so that demolition and renovation of the original client shopping area can get underway. During that demolition, crews discover an Indianapolis News article dated December 28, 1949, that gives us a hint as to the possible age of original construction. By the end of February, our windows are installed along with our first ever garage door.
  • March 2021: We are delighted to introduce the Boulevard Place Food Pantry community to interior designer Kristen Murney, who has been advising us on the right combination of exterior paint colors. We select Marea Baja (a dark blue) to lead the way, accented by a few strategically placed splashes of Persimmon, and finally “Stay in Lime” for the client entry door. It is a vibrant upgrade from the past so we can stand out while also being in harmony with our neighbors.
  • April 2021: Our new walk-in cooler and freezer “shells” are installed and activated. Meanwhile, a simple material—stained plywood—is affixed to the walls. That thin durable layer serves as “ding protection” in case the pallet jack or something sharp gets accidentally shoved into the walls. This idea was the brainchild of Shank, allowing well-meaning volunteers to focus on clients and not carpentry.
  • May 2021: We debut a new tool at the pantry—an electric pallet jack. The $3,000 cost of the tool was donated to us through grants awarded by Indy Hunger Network (IHN), a nonprofit organization that works on projects so that anyone who is hungry can access the nutritious food they need. Also in May, the awning frames are built with wood painted white. We had only two awnings on the previous old portion of the building. Now we’ll have seven. In May, the new check-in and waiting room drop ceilings are finished.

Boulevard Place: What’s Left to Do

  • Install the gutters
  • Pave and stripe the parking lot
  • Install a card reader to the new volunteer entry door (by the garage) so that volunteers can enter and exit
  • Install new flooring for the client waiting room, kitchen and shop floor (The Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association previously approved our grant request to help cover the cost of new flooring. Read that article.)
  • Bu a two-door reach-in client cooler (a gift from our partner, Common Ground Christian Church)