‘Alley Cats’ help beautify downtown Clarion | News


CLARION – Alley cats typically roam a town’s backstreets; feral animals that can become a nuisance. In Clarion, however, the Alley Cats are providing to be a welcome addition as the group of volunteers maintains the planters lining Main Street.

“The businesses were taking care of the planters, but people go on vacation and all of a sudden you look around and their [flowers] are dead,” noted Jim Crooks, a Main Street business owner and member of Destination: Downtown Clarion, a group of businesses working together to promote and beautify Clarion. “We got connected with the group and they embraced the idea. They did all the planting; they’re doing all the watering. We had a water buffalo made so watering is easier.”

Crooks came up with the volunteers’ name, quipping he “stole” it from a group doing something similar in Ellicottville, NY

“I realized the borough had already purchased planters and they needed somebody to plant them,” the group’s leader, Nancy Womeldorf said. “I reached out looking for volunteers at the end of May, and a group of nine of us got together and we planted all of them. From there, we moved on to watering the planters, which is an ongoing task.”

Sharon Guth was one of the original nine that answered Womeldorf’s call.

“I love gardening and always thought Main Street needed a little bit of a touch up. I got involved through Nancy to do the planting and said I would be happy to help keep them watered. We each might spend an hour walking with a watering cart [on different days],” Guth said.

Though many Alley Cat volunteers belong to either the Wildflower Garden Club (Clarion) or Clarion Garden Club, providing valuable expertise, anybody can get involved.

“We have people from both garden clubs and their knowledge base helps us with what to plant. We like having those people available to help with information, they have knowledge of plants in the area,” noted Womeldorf, a member of the Wildflower Garden Club.

She continued, “We welcome everyone absolutely. I would love to have help with watering and maintaining the plants. Even if they can’t do physical work, there are other things — organizing, calling and scheduling waterers, sending thank you notes [to donors]. I look forward to working with absolutely anyone who wants to volunteer.”

Linda Swab volunteered for the first time prior to the July 4 holiday.

“I just started and it’s been great getting out in this kind of [sunny, summer] weather,” she said. “It’s not too much work at all.”

Added Linda Monica, who recently moved to Clarion, “I felt like it would be a good idea to [help] make downtown a little more appealing, we want Main Street to look beautiful.”

Guth belongs to the Clarion Garden Club. Neither Swab nor Monica are garden club members, though the latter has participated in some Wildflower Garden Club meetings.

The Alley Cats have relied upon donations for much of what they’ve thus far accomplished, and are dependent for future projects.

“All the flowers are paid for by donations and everybody is a volunteer, we don’t have a single paid employee,” commented Womeldorf. Destination: Downtown Clarion received donations to help with Main Street. I just recently received a donation from the Sons of the American Legion [Clarion]. Zacherl’s Farm Market & Greenhouse [Shippenville] donated flats of flowers.”

As to future plans, Guth reported, “There was grant money that was given to the borough, so the Alley Cats came up with an idea of ​​some permanent, concrete masonry-type planters for each corner of Main Street. It will allow us to plant more beautiful flowers and hopefully incorporate some perennials, possibly some shrubs. We would love to have the [permanent] planters ready for the Autumn Leaf Festival, but that might be optimism.

“Next summer I hope more people volunteer so we can have bigger, more beautiful plants. I’d love something with height so that people could see them as they’re driving through town.”

According to Crooks, a visually appealing Main Street, such as what the Alley Cats are working voluntarily to provide, is essential for Clarion.

“It’s important to beautify the town, and we’re doing that through flowers, adding color. It’s such a reflection of who we are as a community. People that live here appreciate it, people that are visiting appreciate it,” he observed.

Echoed Womeldorf, “Sometimes I’ll be out watering and people will say, ‘Your flowers look so nice, who’s been planting them?’ We’ve had so much positive feedback. It’s rewarding. Who doesn’t like to go down Main Street and see beautiful flowers blooming?”

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