Yard of the Month encourages beautification, competition

May. 23, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

“Birdhouses! Birdhouses!” Frances Benfield cried out as the car ambled down the road. Outside the window, a tall house sat in the middle of a green, perfectly trimmed yard with a few birdhouses on tall poles near the garden.

Dare Duncan and Maecile Ramsey laughed. Ever since Benfield joined them on the Sawmills Yard of the Month Committee, they’ve known she has a soft spot for birdhouses. They even tried to distract her when a yard with birdhouses appeared on their drive through the town.

“I’ve lived here 50 years, and I didn’t know there were houses on the streets we’ve been on,” Benfield said.

Duncan has selected yards for special recognition as Yard of the Month since May 2011, with Ramsey and Benfield joining in 2012. Every month Kim Trevitt, who works in the Town Hall, drives them all over the town to pick two yards, one from 28630 zip code area and one from the 28638, to receive the special pink Yard of the Month sign to display.  Winners also receive a certification at the regular town council meeting, and photos of the yard are placed outside on the town hall’s bulletin board and online on its Facebook page. Duncan said winners are chosen based on appearance, maintenance, improvement compared to previous months, holiday decorations and creativity.

“We try to include everybody,” Duncan said. “It does not necessarily have to be a big yard or a big home, because we’ve given the Yard of the Month to small places, even apartments, and we’ve given the Yard of the Month to businesses.”

Before hitting the road, the ladies gathered in the Town Hall to talk about nominations by community members and which streets they have not visited in awhile. They caught up on their gossip, and Benfield passed out coffee-flavored Werther’s Originals.

“She has to sweeten us up so we all get along,” Duncan laughed.

In the car, Benfield, Duncan and Ramsey giggled, cracked jokes and pointed out all their neighbors’ places, commenting on how beautiful the yards were. Duncan said that since its inception, the Yard of the Month has started a healthy competition among Sawmills residents.

“I appreciate that people have concern about their place and that they’re competitive to do their yards,” Duncan said. “I think it has an initiative for people to do their yards better.”

Duncan said that she has seen an improvement in the beautification of Sawmills since Yard of the Month began.

“With the Yard of the Month, that seems to have encouraged people to be more involved in taking care of their own places,” Duncan said. “I think that’s because they’re trying to be competitive.”

Sometimes, the committee has difficulty deciding which two yards should be the winners.

As she continued to drive, Trevitt called out, “This is the fun part. Ok, y’all ponder. ... If you need to flip a coin, I’m sure we can find a quarter!”

In the end, the ladies chose Kenneth Clontz’s place at 1743 Carriage Lane and Keith Childers’ yard at 5507 Land Harbor Drive. Both met the unanimous approval of the committee for their pristine landscaping and aesthetically pleasing layout.

“We didn’t really realize we’d have so much fun doing this, but we do,” Benfield said.