Community Welcome

Illinois electric co-op partners with volunteers to create new local pollinator garden

MJM Electric Cooperative employees planning a new community garden sought help from a volunteer caring for a nearby roadside sign welcoming drivers to town.

She also was helping flyers in town: bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators sipping nectar from flowers and plants near the sign and more than 45 nearby locations.

This spring, MJM Electric is planting the first phase of the new MJM Community Pollinator Garden in Carlinville, Ill. The garden includes grass walking paths created between flower and plant areas designed by local master gardeners, including local resident Mary Tinder. She is part of Make Carlinville Beautiful, a volunteer group that planted and maintains pollinator plants throughout town, including the sign at the edge of MJM’s property that drivers pass while traveling into town.

“MJM Electric said they would like to do something with this large area, and add some pollinators to create a garden,” Tinder said. “They are so nice to work with. I just love working with them.”

MJM employees had been discussing ways to help pollinating insects with colleagues at its power supplier, Wabash Valley Power Alliance (WVPA). MJM employees also spoke with Tinder, and they started planning the new community garden in the field next to MJM’s new building.

“Everything is going to be native plants,” said Brooke Gross, communication coordinator at MJM Electric who is part of the group designing and planting the garden. “We are designing all of the elements to ensure they work well, and it will be plants and flowers that bees and butterflies love.”

Tinder worked on similar projects with Make Carlinville Beautiful; over the last several years the volunteer group planted more than 600 native trees, flowers and other plants at various locations in the town. In September 2019, Carlinville became the first Illinois town to receive the Bee City designation by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats.

“We want to become a mecca for pollinators right here by 2025. We talk about how we want to have beautification with a purpose,” Tinder said. “The larger purpose is to address climate change through providing pollinator habitat and food sources, and to start to address pesticide use.”

Pollinator populations have declined in recent years as more of their habitats become urbanized, said Dear Schramm, manager of environmental affairs at Wabash Valley Power. The generation and transmission cooperative supports pollinating plants and insects, such as planting pollinators at solar arrays in its community solar program.

WVPA purchased the grasses for the MJM Community Garden walking paths and more than 40 flowers and bushes that will be planted in the garden later this year.

“When you go into a garden or nature preserve you want to see butterflies and other insects fostered by the plants and flowers,” Schramm said. “It helps all kinds of pollinating insects because they don’t have to fly so far to find their nectar in their habitat, since such areas can be so few and far between.”

A group of volunteers celebrated the new garden during the week of Earth Day in April with a ribbon cutting before starting to plant the first flowers and bushes. Additional volunteers have continued working at the site this spring.

“We had a fun day in the rain,” Tinder said of the ribbon cutting. “Everybody was having a good time, and we got quite a bit started.”

Photo: (Submitted Photo)

Volunteers Mary Tinder and Caleb Gross along with MJM Electric Cooperative CEO and President Laura Cutler and MJM executive administrator Jen Peterson at the ribbing cutting for the MJM Community Pollinator Garden in Carlinville, Ill. Tinder is part of Make Carlinville Beautiful and worked with MJM to help design the new community pollinator garden, which is on land next to MJM’s new building.

Photo: (Submitted Photo)

Joe Heyen, director of engineering and operations at MJM Electric Cooperative, works to install mulch at the MJM Community Pollinator Garden in Carlinville, Ill. Co-op employees have worked with local volunteers on the new garden to support populations of local pollinating insects and animals, such as hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

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