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Building a Better Community, One Block at a Time

Linda Lee Blaine and John Bannon on a bench outside Forgottonia Brewing

The volunteer-driven group Build a Better Block Macomb is based on a program founded in Dallas, TX. The goal is to bring local residents together to work on local projects rather than relying on the city or trying to win a grant.

"The idea is that neighbors and local residents can come together to beautify their neighborhoods through a bottom-up approach versus a top-down approach," said John Bannon, the city of Macomb's Community Development Coordinator and one of the group's volunteers.

"We'd love to have more volunteers. We'd love to have more involvement."

The group's latest project is called "Caps to Benches," according to volunteer Linda Lee Blaine.

"We've been collecting bottle caps – any kind of plastic cap – for about six months and we've gotten several hundred pounds worth. It takes about 200 pounds to create a bench," said Blaine, who is a Community and Economic Development Outreach Specialist with the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University.

"We're taking them to Green Tree Plastics in Indiana and they are going to convert them into benches for us."

Build a Better Block Macomb held a fundraiser at Forgottonia Brewing, hoping to bring in enough money to pay for two benches. Instead, the group raised enough for three. 

"We've had an amazing response," Blaine said.

She said volunteers – including students at ROYALS (Regional Office Youth Alternative Learning Services) school in Macomb – will clean and sort the caps. The group will then take the caps to Green Tree to have the benches made.

Blaine said the benches could be installed this spring, though Build a Better Block Macomb has not set a timeline for doing so. She said the group will ask ROYALS students for their thoughts on where to place the benches and will also accept suggestions from the community. 

Rich is TSPR's News Director.