It started as a simple request from a citizen. Trudy Nichols walks through town a lot, using a walker to help steady her. And she frequently rides the Marion Transit. One afternoon, Ms. Nichols came in town hall with a concern. The buses stop at random locations, so she was having to flag them down when she wanted a ride. And, to make matters worse, there were no places to sit and catch her breath along the sidewalks or at the shopping centers while she waited for a bus to come by.Olivia McDonald, executive director for Marion's Main Street program, proposed a solution. Working with staff, they designed an inexpensive but attractive, durable park bench that would be installed at critical points throughout the downtown. Following a survey of downtown businesses, property owners, and workers, locations were selected and Marion Downtown began fundraising.
The Marion Kiwanis Club was the first to sign up, sponsoring two benches in honor of the club's service to children. Soon, other groups and individuals followed, providing places for downtown customers to pause and enjoy our community.
District Three, sponsor of the Marion Transit, worked with McDonald to identify several places where patrons liked to catch the bus, and McDonald's group included those for bench locations as well.
The difference? Sponsored benches face the buildings, as was the request of the community. The bus stop benches face the street so patrons can see buses arriving.
Last fall, town crews placed a handful of benches to see how they would hold up, and how much they would be used. Community support provided that more benches were needed, not only downtown, but also at the shopping centers across town, and the crews spent the winter building them.
"Now, Main Street and Marion's shopping centers sport new benches, perfect for taking a rest or taking in the scenery, for catching your breath or catching the bus" said Marion Mayor David Helms. "And it all started with a great idea from someone caring enough to stop in and say something about it."
Benches can still be sponsored to honor a club, organization, church, or person. For information, contact Olivia McDonald at (276) 783-4190 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To date, Marion Street Benches have been sponsored by: The Kiwanis Club of Marion, William Huber Architect, German Club of Marion, Peck Properties, Marion Morning Rotary Club, Julius and Kayla Winebarger, and the Eric Albano Youth Soccer Foundation.