Stephanie Reed has lived in the Rumford area since 2018 with her husband, Chris Reed, Rumford’s fire chief. She is a physician assistant in the emergency room at Rumford hospital and owns her own event planning and holiday decorating business, Once Upon a Time Design. But in her spare time, Reed, who grew up in a garden center, is also chair of Rumford’s Beautify Rumford Committee and a board director of Envision Rumford, another community group for business improvements in the town, using her talents to better the community.

Several members of the Beautify Rumford Committee have said that you’ve inspired them to get outside in the community and help with community projects such as filling planters with plants and doing the work to keep them weeded and healthy. How do you inspire others to get out there in the community and help? I think the best way to inspire is to lead by example and be enthusiastic. I love adding color and life to the area through plants and flowers, and I think that enthusiasm just rubs off on others. I also try to make sure that anyone can feel included and able to help, regardless of their knowledge or skill level.

How much time a week does it take for Beautify Rumford Committee members to work on current projects? What kind of time commitment do the projects involve, and do committee members have to already know how to care for plants before joining? Well, I spend several hours a week at least doing planning and logistics, but that’s just me. The committee members don’t have a huge commitment unless they want to. Some members put in a few hours every other week weeding and doing upkeep during the summer season, others come out when we have a project day. There are probably a handful of project days during each season. We have spring, summer, fall and Christmas projects. Committee members don’t need to have any experience in plants or gardening before joining. We welcome all knowledge and skill levels. And you just might learn something you can use in your home life!

The Beautify Rumford Committee has several projects set up throughout the downtown area and on the outskirts of town. How many projects are you currently working on and what are you and the committee members doing to tend to those projects? We are currently working on putting flags on many of the downtown streets. We have 13 planters that we maintain throughout the (Downtown Rumford) Island, as well as the two large brick permanent planters, and we are working on adding more this year to expand to other downtown areas. We are purchasing planters for the bridges as well. We created and maintain the gardens at the Veterans’ Park. This year we created “Gateway Gardens” at the entrances to the town where the Rumford town signs are.

Several community businesses as well as the Fire Department, Parks Department, and Highway Department contribute their services toward Beautify Rumford projects. What kinds of work are they doing to help? The town Highway Department built the Gateway planters for us, and they put the flags up and move the concrete planters around for us. The Parks Department waters the planters and helps out with weeding and mulch when they can. They are both also a huge help at Christmas time for getting decorations up. The Fire Department also helps us with water when we need it and helps to get Christmas decorations done when we need their ladder truck and manpower. Some community businesses support us with monetary donations. These include Franklin Savings Bank, who sponsored the gardens at Veterans’ Park, Poland Spring, who gave us a grant for the “Gateway Gardens,” Key Bank, who this year sponsored the brick planter next to their parking lot, the Rotary Club, Aubuchon Hardware and Riverside Realty, who sponsored the flags (we are in the process of getting more).

Stephanie Reed, the chair of Rumford’s Beautify Rumford Committee, works on a project with other committee members in July along Route 2 near the Rumford and Hanover town line. From left are Beverly Ann Soucy, Reed, Jessica Voter, Linda Pepin and Jess Roberts. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

You’ve said that the background work of designing and figuring placement and removal of planters and decorations is something that you yourself spend time on. Where did you get your knowledge of how to create the designs, and which types of plants do well in them? I grew up in a third-generation wholesale and retail greenhouse and garden center family in Warwick, New York. I was 2 years old and playing in soil bins. My first job at age 5 was picking up plant tags on the greenhouse floor. My grandfather, Paul King, started the business and he invented things like HydroGel, which is a compound that absorbs water and then releases it to the soil when it’s dry. I just kind of grew up in this (greenhouse) world. In 2010 I started a business called Once Upon a Time Design in New York. We do event planning and holiday decorating for both residential and commercial markets. Christmas is a big deal for me, but I love all holidays and events.

Where and how do you get the funding to do these town beautification projects? We are basically out knocking on doors and applying for grants all of the time. If anyone wants to donate, please let us know! Most of our committee members have invested their own money, as well as their time, because they believe in our projects. We have gotten local community grants, and we just got approved for (town funding) this past budget year, so obviously, the great people who live in our community understand that what we are doing is important. It has been proven over and over that beautification projects are a relatively small investment financially, that pay great dividends in tourism, community pride, and mental and physical health.

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