NEW PALESTINE — It all started back in May when a New Palestine parent was waiting in the morning drop-off line at Sugar Creek Elementary School. That’s when Dawn Lindell noticed how badly the grounds around the school had been maintained.

“It looked more like an abandoned lot rather than an elementary school,” Lindell said.

It was so upsetting she went home and posted on the New Palestine Moms page on Facebook to see if anyone else thought it was an issue. If so, Lindell wanted suggestions on how they might go about making things better.

Story continues below gallery

“Within the day we had a group of volunteers and a committee formed,” Lindell said.

Rather than take their complaint to district officials, the parents decided to take matters into their own hands.

They created a grounds and cleaning committee to make improvements.

They spent the rest of May and most of June pulling weeds and getting a plan together.

The landscaping issue was something new school Principal Kari Shelton noticed right off, the parents said.

“She was eager to help in any way possible,” Lindell said.

One of the first things they did was get Nathan Johnson, owner of All-Star Turf Management and a school dad, to assist in the more technical parts of the plan.

He was able to work with Shelby Materials to get a portion of new landscape rock donated and discounted.

“We had several Saturday morning work days, which usually included around 15 to 20 people,” Lendell said.

Overgrown bushes, shrubs and weeds were removed. Flower beds were taken down to dirt and replaced with low-maintenance rock throughout the entrance and parking lot.

Organizers said there was so much overgrowth and higher-maintenance plants to worry about that they decided to just start over with a future goal to make the grounds area a low-maintenance landscape.

“It was truly a great group of volunteers that came together to make it happen,” Sugar Creek PTO President Jenni Dropsey said.

After getting an estimated $500 from the district for the purchase of landscape rock, the PTO put in about $540 for different materials needed, such as landscaping fabric, planters, several flowering plants and more.

“I am sure the labor would have added up to thousands of dollars,” Dropsey said.

Their goal was to have as much work done as possible by Friday, July 31, for Meet Your Teacher Night.

By the time students and staff returned to the building on the first day of school Aug. 3, the grounds had been transformed.

The hard work did not go unnoticed by district officials.

Assistant Superintendent Bob Yoder told the district’s board that parents had done a great job in cleaning things up.

Yoder said it was appreciated that parents stepped forward to volunteer their time. He said the district didn’t have the funding needed to do the job correctly. He also noted that parents at New Palestine Elementary School did the same thing.

Lindell said from this point forward the Sugar Creek PTO plans to keep a committee and work through the winter to come up with a long-term plan to finish and maintain the grounds.

It also hopes to apply for any grants that might be able to help maintain the outside area.

“I’m sure come spring we’ll be setting up Saturday work days and asking for volunteers,” Lindell said.

While several parents, students and even some staff volunteered for the project, Lindell said they could not have done it without the help of many others in the community, including: Nathan Johnson, Gene Johnson, John Weidenhaupt, Dave Roberts, Ben Smith, Brent Norton, Andy Haddix, Tony Bubnic, Jim Sleeth, Will Barada, Greg Cain and Maxx Manes.

Author photo
Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or