The Cougar Group manufactures and sells outdoor power equipment, like lawn mowers, snow blowers, weed trimmers, leaf blowers, generators, and rototillers. Mike started it a few years ago and recruited a high-octane management team to help him. For instance, Henry Davis graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from Yale and an MBA from Stanford University. Two of the management team worked together at Saturn and two of them worked together at Allied Signal. They all have a lot of experience from Fortune 200 companies. They chose to relocate to Alum Creek Drive because that location gave them an opportunity to have both retail space and warehouse space from which to ship large orders to customers located as far away as Dubai. They've already entered into a contract with the State of Louisiana and with Columbus' own Parks & Recreation Department (which celebrated its 100th anniversary last week as well) to supply power lawn equipment. They've also recently received their Minority Business Enterprise designation, which will greatly assist them achieve more government contracts.
The event was well attended. State Representative Tracy Maxwell Heard presented the management team with an eloquent proclamation and a representative from the Ohio Department of Development was also there, along with members of their families, friends who had helped them get started, and business associates. Each member of the management team emphasized how blessed he had been in his personal and professional life and wanted to share his blessings with the local community. Among other things, The Cougar Group wants to relocate its manufacturing operation to Columbus in order to create more jobs for the local community. In addition to providing support to the SACG, it also wants to help FPC start an entrepreneurship program for youths to start their own lawn mowing businesses. It is also creating a franchising opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to start their own outdoor maintenance service business by providing a trailer which would be filled with lawn care equipment in the summer (like lawn mowers, trimmers, & blowers) and with snow removal equipment in the winter.
The raffle was a great success and raised $300 for the SACG which we can use, among other things, towards the purchase of a 500 gallon water tank (to collect rain water) so that we can satisfy the current watering needs of the SACG as well as possibly supporting an expansion of the garden next year. Kathy created very cute wheelbarrows to hold the blank raffle tickets, money and ticket stubs. The raffle's winner won a Cougar lawn mower. (Even though Bill and I both bought two tickets and I pulled the winning ticket, alas, neither of us were the winners of the raffle or the door prizes). Kathy also created very cute table centerpieces of child-sized Cougar lawn mowers. To support the raffle, our gardener extraordinare, Rayna, created a fabulous story display board showing highlights from the 2009 growing season -- from our first litter pick-up day on the vacant lot in early April 2009 to our Fall clean-up day in November 2009 – and I added a few pictures from this season as well. Bill brought a few display boards showing scenes from other local community gardens as well as information about Plant a Row and Growing to Green.
Each attendee received a gift bag with the logo of the Cougar Group and which contained some pens, a Briggs & Stratton hat, a stapler and note pad from the Ohio Department of Development, a water bottle from Insurance Agencies of Ohio, a Franklin Park Conservatory bookmark, and a security whistle key chain from ADT Security, etc. Music and entertainment was provided by the very talented and good looking Thor Winston.
However, the biggest surprise of the event was reserved for me at the end of the opening day ceremony: The Cougar Group donated to us a brand new rototiller!!! We can use it whenever we want and won't have to reserve it weeks in advance and keep our fingers crossed for good weather on the one day we have it (like we do now). No more sleepless nights wondering if I can find someone who owns a tiller and is willing to till the garden for us each April. Isn't that great! Of course, it's enormous and just barely fits in our brand-new shed. In the spirit of paying it forward and inspired by the generosity of The Cougar Group, we'd be delighted to loan it to other community gardens (who, of course, sign a blood oath to return itJ).
As you can imagine, the rototiller would not fit in the back of my Jetta, so we were lucky that Bill drove his truck to the event and could transport it back to the SACG for us. This also gave me the opportunity to show him our brand new shed – which Charlie had just painted with primer – as well as our recent capital improvements along Cherry Street, our new blueberry bushes and the two beds we built for BTBO behind its offices. Speaking of Bill. You've heard the saying, "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium." Well, Bill also really gets around. Who knew? On the day before The Cougar Group event, he was in Arkansas helping with a new community garden and on the morning of our event, he was back in Columbus helping with the creation of the new Healthy Hands and Healthy Hearts community garden on the near East side. I remember that he was in Fairfield County (helping with its Master Gardening program) when we broke ground for the 2010 growing season and I saw him on WCMH early on Saturday morning for the Earth Day weekend workdays. His travel schedule was so exhausting; I could not remember any more details. However, he thinks he might get two days off in June to attend a wedding. Otherwise, he is essentially working six days each week and tends his own garden on the seventh. I get tired just thinking about it.
We are truly blessed to have such a generous benefactor in The Cougar Group. Their support of the SACG will help us accomplish great things – not just this year but in the future as well. I hope that The Cougar Group will be a great success in the future and be able to help us out again someday with volunteers and other support. That is, of course, more likely to hapen if all of our readers and supporters stop by its newest store on 1515 Alum Creek Drive (just feet south of the I-70 entrance/exit ramp) to wish them well, check out the Cougar line of mowers and patronize a new, local business.