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For the second time in recent years, the Brookfield Beautification Commission has won a Governor's Hometown Award for its efforts to spruce up the village — this time for a project that included help from all corners of Brookfield, including the business community, Brookfield Zoo and Riverside-Brookfield High School.
On Nov. 29, four members of the commission along with Village President Michael Garvey visited the governor's mansion for the awards ceremony, which was sponsored by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development.
Brookfield was among 29 municipalities recognized for initiating volunteer projects that "create a positive environment in which businesses and families want to live and work," according to the DCEO website.
The project chosen as a winner for Brookfield was Progress Park, the small triangular plot of land at Eight Corners that has been turned into an oasis, complete with a colorful mural depicting the Four Elements, a bench and pavers engraved with verse.
"I'm not sure anyone really understands how much work and how much cooperation and partnership and creative thinking and just hard work went into making that happen there," said Garvey, who honored the commission at the village board meeting on Dec. 10.
Brookfield last won a Governor's Hometown Award in 2009 for the Brookfield Beautification Commission's Project NICE events, cleanup days held twice a year in spring and fall.
The Brookfield Beautification Commission christened the park at a ceremony in November 2011 after nearly a year of planning and preparation. The first completed project of the commission's public art initiative, Progress Park was the result of widespread community collaboration.
"These Governor's Hometown Awards are very, very competitive," said Garvey. "I think you see the common theme, that we have volunteers who come forward and offer their time and offer their solutions to help us … and we have a beautiful new park because of that."
While the idea began with the commission, it would not have been possible without First National Bank of Brookfield, which provided permission to use the land it owns at Eight Corners for that purpose.
Art students from Riverside-Brookfield High School painted the four-panel mural, following the concept laid out by volunteer artist Sonata Kazimieraitiene, and creative writing students contributed the verses etched on pavers.
Brookfield Zoo donated the bench, while Vulcan Materials provided decorative boulders. Roger Freeman of Freeman Fencing built the mural's "frame."
In all, 83 people volunteered more than 1,000 hours of time to the effort, and local businesses donated almost $10,000 in materials and services to make Progress Park a reality.
At the awards ceremony at the governor's mansion in November, the presenter called the park "Brookfield's version of It's a Wonderful Life."
"When they learned of the Brookfield Beautification Commission's master plan for community art, residents, businesses and organizations offered their help."
That summation made perfect sense to Pam Powers, a member of the Brookfield Beautification Commission who put together the application for the award.
"We'd call people up and say, 'This is what we need,' and they just jumped on the bandwagon," said Powers. "We had every sector of the village involved, so we're excited to move on to the next venture."
It's just the start of the commission's effort to bring more community art projects to Brookfield, said McBride-Leslie.
The commission is in the final stages of creating a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation to raise funds for future community art projects. Beautify Brookfield's board of directors includes members of the Brookfield business community and other local organizations, such as Brookfield Zoo.
"Progress Park was the first project, but we want to do bigger, better community art," said McBride-Leslie.
The area that will likely receive the first attention is the Hollywood/Brookfield Zoo Metra stop, she said.