A better appearance
Kevin and Brandi Sawyer have lived in Towanda their entire lives. Over the years, they have seen many changes to the town of nearly 1,500; some good and some bad. But it was what they saw in their downtown area over the past few years which finally called them to action.
“I took a picture of my daughter, sitting on my motorcycle, downtown at one of last year’s Biker Breakfast events,” said Kevin. “Behind the motorcycle you see weeds and trash. This is the first thing you see when you come into our town.”
Kevin is talking about Main Street, which used to be U.S. Highway 254 before the state rerouted the road around Towanda. It is a one block stretch in the town measuring less than a mile from end to end, and includes a building on the national historic register as well as other businesses. Instead of complaining to the city the downtown area was getting rundown, Kevin came up with a plan to spruce it up.
“So many times the city staff will hear ‘what needs to be done’ and ‘what the city needs to do’ type of statements,” said Matt Engels, Towanda city administrator. “Kevin came to the game to play. He came with a ‘what can I do?’ attitude.”
Kevin wanted to install benches for people to sit on, trash receptacles, plants and trees. But most of all he wanted to clean up the focal point of town.
“Not only has Kevin worked on improving the downtown environment, he has set an example of what a volunteer with action in mind can do,” said Engels. “Kevin has been a part of the Towanda community all of his life and saw an opportunity to make his hometown look and feel better.”
Kevin went to local businesses and asked them to donate $240 for a bench or $390 for trash receptacle. Many saw this as a small investment to make in order to beautify their downtown. n fact, they even had money left over to pay for the pots for the plants and trees. Those that donated included M.W.M Oil Company, Ace Construction, Interstate Battery, Dustrol Inc., Pyle’s Auto, Prairie Station Vet Clinic, Newbrey Tax and Accounting, and Frontier Refinery. There were also many anonymous donors.
“In a time where so many factions are competing for the limited tax dollar, it is refreshing to see someone soliciting for donations from generous resources in order to make an idea come to life,” said Engels. “Kevin not only put his sweat equity in, but he also did it in a way that every taxpayer could appreciate.”
In between making phone calls and visiting donors, he and his wife took vacation from their jobs to clean the sidewalks and remove some of the outdated trees. In their place, he poured cement stands to put foliage on and began a modernization of the public areas. Engels said the effort will take a little time and effort, but Kevin’s work was the first step needed to help bring pride back to the district.
Kevin said there is something everyone can do to make their town a better place.
“Just a little elbow grease goes a long way. We made a big difference by just putting in some time. You can do a lot with just some labor,” said Kevin. “And once you put forth the initiative it gets other people stirred up. I have had people offer to help and I have had people stop and tell me ‘thanks it looks great.’”
Both Kevin and Engels said they hope now when folks visit for events, like the monthly Biker Breakfast, they will notice the beauty of Towanda and not weeds and trash.
The Towanda Biker Breakfast is held every third Sunday of the month, March-October, from 7 to 11 a.m. This destination ride for bikers culminates with a Motorcycle and Jeep Run and Toy Drive for the children of Butler County in October.
“Everyone is welcome. There are vendors, bands and a great breakfast,” said Engels. “You don’t have to be a biker to come and enjoy the good company.”