Steve Martinson (left), Valparaiso Parks Department horticulture superintendent, and Don Nagel, Sean Lyons, 10, and Mike Lyons wield shovels as they plant a shingle oak tree along Galway Drive in Valparaiso. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
AT A GLANCE
For more information about Valparaiso’s volunteer Shade Brigade, call Ann Brugos at 462-4612 or email email@example.com.
Updated: December 9, 2012 6:42AM
On a recent cold Saturday morning, Mike Jovanovic, 12, could have slept in or played video games.
Instead, shovel in hand, he helped plant trees in his neighborhood, the Shamrock subdivision on the Valparaiso’s southwest side.
“I just want to plant more trees around the neighborhood and make it a little better,” said Mike, a sixth-grader at Franklin Middle School.
Mike joined about 15 other volunteers and members of Valparaiso’s Public Works Department on Nov. 3 for the first effort by the Shade Brigade, which has the goal of rounding up volunteers to plant trees, provided by a grant, around town.
The city received two grants to plant a total of 150 trees. One of the grants, for 35 trees, included a volunteer component, said Ann Brugos, office manager in public works and coordinator of the effort.
Volunteers planted 15 trees in Shamrock, which was selected for the kickoff effort because it has a lot of wide parkways without trees and is in the Lake Michigan watershed area, Brugos said.
“Part of why I wanted to do this is to build community,” she told the volunteer planters before a demonstration by Steve Martinson, Valparaiso Parks and Recreation Department horticulture superintendent, on how to plant a tree.
Mayor Jon Costas said the planting was part of the city’s effort for green practices, which also includes separating the city’s sewer system to stop overflows. Noting that city officials love to plant trees, he said they like to work with volunteers to get things done, too.
“Life is all about partnering,” Costas said.
Martinson guided the volunteers through planting a shingle oak, instructing them to plant the trees so they sat high in the heavy clay soil and to break up the dirt before they back-filled the hole.
Mike hopes to volunteer to plant trees in other parts of the city as part of the Shade Brigade. His mother, Jen Jovanovic, wants him to be engaged in his community.
“It’s important for me to have him volunteer his time,” she said, adding another chance for Mike to help out that morning didn’t work out. “I think it’s an awesome experience for him to see people who volunteer.”