CES Cumberland Helps Build Khloe’s Garden
When customer Jerry Rice with Rice Builders LLC approached CES Cumberland Branch Manager Scott Pratt about helping with Khloe’s Garden for the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, Pratt jumped at the opportunity.
“Jerry called me and asked if I had two empty spools that I would be willing to donate,” said Pratt. “I immediately said yes after he explained what was going on.”
Giving back to the community is important to Pratt no matter the project, but this one really stood out to him.
Annette Flanigan, Rice’s girlfriend and an elementary deaf education teacher, came up with the idea when her student’s mom passed away in February 2020.
“When Khloe’s mom passed away, instead of having people spend money on flowers and other expenses, they had a celebration and asked people to donate money to a memorial instead,” said Flanigan.
Each of the children in Khloe’s family had a part of the memorial fund donated to their schools, and Khloe’s teacher knew exactly what she wanted to do with hers.
“Annette talked to Khloe one day at school and asked what she liked,” said Khloe’s grandmother, Mary Cay Hyre. “She told her she liked butterflies and books.”
That is when Flanigan came up with the idea to create a butterfly garden and call it Khloe’s Garden.
“I felt like there was no better way to honor Khloe’s mom than building a garden at the school where Khloe could spend time and feel like she is still in the presence of her mom,” said Flanigan.
Being the teacher she is, Flanigan went straight to Pinterest to gather ideas for the garden.
“I saw some projects with spools and thought it was a great idea to incorporate them,” said Flanigan.
Bringing In CES
That is when Rice called Pratt. Rice and Pratt have known each other since Pratt was a kid. They even worked together since the CES Cumberland branch opened.
“We go way back, and I know how much Scott enjoys giving back, so I knew calling him and asking for a donation of two empty spools would not take a lot of convincing,” said Rice.
Rice and Flanigan painted and constructed the two spools into tables for fairies, and they bought gnomes for the elementary students to paint and place in the garden.
“Jerry gave me cement to make stepping stones for the garden and tree biscuits for the kids to place their gnomes on top of them,” said Flanigan. “It has become an interactive garden for the kids.”
And none of it would have been possible without Principal Dave Simanski.
“When Annette approached me, I thought it was a great idea,” said Simanski. “There were several hurdles, especially being still in COVID times.”
Although the garden took a while to complete, Simanski is so thankful for what they were able to accomplish with the help of the community.
“Everyone worked together; that was the biggest factor in getting it done,” said Simanski. “It gives you a sense of pride and helps us remember that we aren’t just a school. We are a part of the community and the lives of our families.”
After several months of preparation and putting the garden together, the garden was almost complete, so Flanigan decided to show Khloe.
“Khloe’s reaction when we showed her was that she just wanted to play,” said Flanigan. “She didn’t realize it would soon be named after her.”
Justin Clites, the counter sales rep at the branch, created a metal sign for the bench. When the bench was finalized, Flanigan took Khloe down before she went to her dorm and showed her the bench.
“She was very surprised that it was her garden,” said Flanigan. “But the first thing she asked was if everyone could play in it.”
The answer was yes.
Flanigan said it was a very emotional moment when Khloe’s family came to see Khloe’s garden.
“On the last day of school, the family came to pick up Khloe, and we revealed to them what we did with the money,” said Flanigan.
For Khloe’s grandma, it was a touching moment.
“This garden gives Khloe attachment and connection to having something of her mom there,” said Mary Cay. “It’s a physical place that she can go to talk with her or remember her while she’s at school.”
Team Efforts and Thank Yous
This was a community effort, and Simanski does not believe this could have happened without the efforts of everyone involved.
“Thank you to CES for the cool spools you provided and donated to Jerry. Thank you to Annette for coming up with this idea, and thank you to the community for always being there for each other,” said Simanski.
As for Mary Cay, she cannot say thank you enough.
“This garden is going to forever be a visible reminder and memory of her mom each and every day,” said Mary Cay. “She is going to be able to walk by the garden daily, and for that, I cannot say thank you enough.”
Rice also couldn’t say thank you enough to CES.
“Scott and his district manager, Nate Brosius, are phenomenal to work with,” said Rice. “To be involved with CES has been an outstanding venture. Knowing that CES is involved with other ways of giving back than just this really makes me happy to work with them and involve them.”
Rice mentioned this wouldn’t have been possible without Annette’s efforts.
“Khloe meant so much to Annette. She dumped her heart and soul into this, and nothing would have been done without her,” said Rice. “Annette is one of those teachers that put their hearts and souls into her students. It is heartwarming how much each student means to her. She deserves so much thanks that no one can imagine giving her.”
No Recognition Needed
But Pratt never expected or looked for recognition.
“It was a quick deal, and all I cared about was helping where I could,” said Pratt. “Jerry needed things, and I happened to have them. Giving back is something everyone should do even if it is just donating two spools. I was just happy to be involved and know I am helping put a smile on someone’s face.”