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Photos courtesy of Rebuilding Together Long Beach. 

Contributing to water conservation and creating a beautiful landscape may not seem to go hand-in-hand at first thought, but recently, the Long Beach Water Department (LBWD), Surfrider Foundation and other partners made it happen.

On Saturday, October 24, the LBWD, Surfrider Foundation, Rebuilding Together Long Beach and Home Ownership for Personal Empowerment (HOPE), Inc., teamed up to build drought-tolerant landscapes for low-income and disabled residents in Long Beach.

In fact, more than 24 volunteers from Johnson Controls, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Molina Healthcare and the International Association of Events and Exhibitors joined forces to replace the properties of three HOPE homes with regional vegetation.

“We did just about everything that is needed to turn a grass lawn into a drought-resistant landscaped garden,” said Kelly Cipko, a volunteer from Johnson Controls. “We dug out the grass, dug trenches, poured mulch & gravel, planted native plants and many other tasks.”

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One of the homes before the drought-tolerant landscaping was completed. 

The new setup will cost residents less in water and maintenance fees, and offered for free a yard revitalization they either could not have afforded to complete, or could not have managed, physically.

“During the renovation, a couple of the disabled residents rode up and were so happy with our efforts,” said Chelsea Leanord of Molina Healthcare. “They had huge smiles on their faces and they even started taking pictures and talking to the volunteers.”

Attractive soil was bordered by landscape stones and regional vegetation, to make for an impressive new yard at many of the homes. 

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One of the homes after the drought-tolerant landscaping was completed. 

However, Cipko said the rewarding aspect of the endeavor went beyond the aesthetic component of the project.

“The great thing about a project like this is at the end of the day, you can see the impact you’ve made when you look at these beautiful lawns you helped transform for these residents,” Cipko said. “Though aesthetics aside, it also has an environmental and economic impact. These drought resistant gardens require much less water and little maintenance. That’s more time enjoying your garden and less time spent with a noisy, exhaust spewing lawnmower.”

Cipko said the residents with whom they worked brought the most satisfaction from the job.

“[…] what really touched us was actually interacting with the residents at these homes,” said Cipko. “These were their homes that we were working on and they all came out to talk with us. They were so happy and excited to have us there. They greeted us with open arms, supported us, told us jokes, brought us water and made us tea. They wanted and needed our help and told us so through kindness.”