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OUN nature trail project a finalist for national grant

by jmaloni

Submitted

Mon, May 5th 2014 09:00 am

Facebook votes required to advance to next level and win

Enhancements to the nature trail at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara's Wheatfield site have been selected as a finalist project in the "Green America Awards" competition. This project, which OUN calls an integral part of the horticulture therapy program for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, will advance to the next round of eligibility. It will need public support to win.

In order to vote, each person has to "Like" the Nature Hills Nursery Facebook page (www.facebook.com/naturehills), and then click on the "Vote Here" button near the top of the page (or go directly to https://www.facebook.com/naturehills/app_208195102528120). Voters can only cast one ballot in each round.

The OUN garden project has been pitted against another one of the finalists in a "bracket" format. Only one of the two gardens will advance to the next round. Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara is the second "garden" in the first bracket. This round of voting ends at 1 a.m. Wednesday, May 7.

If OUN advances through this round and the next rounds via Facebook votes, it will receive fruit trees and bushes to complement an existing raised accessible herb garden. Other bushes and shrubs awarded would be used throughout the area, which is accessible via the 1/8 mile-paved trail and sits on five acres. This award would add an sensory component to the trail.

The nature trail is located behind the Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse/Day Services Building of Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, at 2510 Niagara Falls Blvd. It is handicapped accessible and is open to the public as well.

Background on the Kimberly Woodruff Memorial Nature Trail & Agency

The Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse opened to the public in 1995 as the agency's horticulture therapy program. It is a unique program offered to the disability community in Western New York. The horticulture program expanded with the nature trail in September 2000, and was named after Kimberly Woodruff, a former day services employee who died in an automobile accident in 1996.

The nature trail is intended to provide horticulture therapy, environmental education and an appreciation of natural beauty for people with disabilities - and the community, as well - while creating integration opportunities that promote an understanding about people with disabilities.

As one walks along the trail, there are benches, picnic tables, handrail accessibility, brail signage, birdhouses, shrubs, decorated rocks, various pieces of furniture, unique containers and decorations throughout. On weekends and evenings, one will see people from various agencies' group homes, families, church groups and others walking, sitting, listening and picnicking along the trail.

For nearly 60 years, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara has been providing training, supported employment, community volunteering, technology, service coordination, exceptional parenting, recreation (youth and adult), residential, geriatric, fine arts, horticulture therapy and health-related support services to people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities (from newborn to seniors) and their families.

For more information about the greenhouse or the agency, call 716-504-2617 or visit www.opportunitiesunlimited.org.

Green America Awards

The Green America Awards were created to give national recognition and thousands of dollars in plants to community groups and organizations that are improving their local environments. The annual awards honor nonprofit groups and organizations that are literally "greening" their communities, parks, schools and public spaces by planting trees, shrubs and other plants.

The award program is sponsored by Nature Hills Nursery, "America's Online Garden Center." The actual winners of the 2014 Green America Awards will be determined by votes for each semifinalist on the Nature Hills Nursery Facebook page. The voting will proceed in a series of head-to-head contests between pairs of semifinalists. The winner in each head-to-head vote will advance to the next round. The four victorious entrants will then move on to the semifinals and be paired up against other first-round winners. Voting in the semifinals will begin May 8, and will end at 1 a.m. May 14.

Based upon Facebook votes in the semifinals, the two victorious entrants will proceed to the final round for a head-to-head contest that will determine which of the finalists will win the first prize of $1,500 in plants from Nature Hills Nursery, and which will win the second prize of $750 in plants. Voting in the final round will begin May 15, and will end at 1 a.m. May 21.

"At Nature Hills Nursery, we are in the business of growing and selling plants," said Jeffrey Dinslage, president of Nature Hills Nursery. "Sustainability and beautification are important to our company. We created the Nature Hills Nursery Green America Award to give back a portion of the plants we produce annually to projects that will help reduce carbon dioxide and beautify communities. We will use our Facebook page to create excitement for the Green America Awards and open up the final selection of winners to all of our Facebook friends."

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