In April of last year, an F-3 tornado ripped through Tupelo, Mississippi, devastating parts of the city and requiring a huge cleanup effort. Today, a local landscaper celebrated the National Association of Landscape Professional’s Day of Service by landscaping a church affected by the tornado.
Brad McCully of Sportsman Lawn and Landscape, a full-service landscaping firm that offers design-build, maintenance and irrigation services among others, participates in Day of Service almost every year. However, he says this year’s project is a special one. Parkway Baptist Church’s pastor, Matt Scopel, is a longtime friend and former youth pastor. The church itself is located in the Joyner neighborhood, an area in which Brad has frequently worked.
Although Parkway Baptist remained standing following the tornado, the roof was damaged from trees and debris driven through the material and into the building. The church escaped major structural damage — a fortunate result, since the basement was sheltering 120 people at the time of the tornado.
The church property, which featured beautiful old oak trees as the centerpiece of its landscape design, did not escape the wrath of the storm. All of the property’s trees — a dozen of which were more than 90 years old — were taken by the tornado.
Apart from the emotional loss created by the destruction of the oaks, the site was left somewhat barren — very little undamaged shrubbery, no trees and almost no sod. Therefore, every time it rained, the soil would become saturated, leaving the property a mess. With a slightly sloped grade, runoff problems were also becoming an issue. So, when the McCullys — Brad, his wife Jessi and his brother Marty — selected a project for Day of Service, Brad knew right away what he wanted to do. He’d volunteered for cleanup at Parkway Baptist right after the tornado, and knew the site needed new landscaping.
“For us, this is more than a Day of Service connection,” he says. “It’s a rubble-to-resurrection project for us.”
Although the overall project will take longer than a single day, Sportsman Lawn and Landscape performed the heavy work and landscaping on Wednesday, including removing damaged arborvitae and damaged trees, as well as building the beds for church members to use for planting. The crew installed knockout roses in the built-in planters that flank the church’s entryway, and donated pine straw for use as mulch. The soil was also readied for sod installation.
Brad, who started his business in high school, says he feels he owes the work to the community. “Everyone has been helped out in one respect or another during his or her life,” he says. “We all grew up in or around Tupelo, and we’ve formed bonds, friendships and relationships.”
Marty, who also started landscaping in high school, agrees with his brother’s attitude, and notes the significance of this particular Day of Service project. “We knew we had to do a project that was related to the tornado,” he says. “I believe this will boost the morale of the congregation.”