The community organizers behind Thankful Thursdays have been planting the seeds of a better Meadville with their volunteer activities over the past year. Starting today, their seed-planting efforts will take a turn for the literal, one they hope will make for a prettier Meadville later this summer.

The latest Thankful Thursdays event is the Sunflower Dash, an adventure in sunflower-planting, according to organizers. Anyone interested is invited to gather at the Diamond Park gazebo Thursday at 5 p.m.

The idea for the community-wide sunflower push came from Taylor Hinton, community wellness coordinator at the Meadville Area Recreation Complex Community Garden.

“Really simple beautification techniques” can be effective in reducing crime and improving community perception, Hinton said. When the idea of planting sunflowers on a widespread basis occurred to her, the idea of teaming up with the Thankful Thursdays team quickly followed. The group’s clean-up efforts are a textbook example of simple but meaningful beautification activities, according to Hinton.

“I’ve always liked the idea of putting sunflowers in community lots,” Hinton said, citing the annual plantings in front of the Crawford County Courthouse as an example that has brightened her day in years past. “You do notice that it feels more welcoming and that it’s a nice place — and that people are trying to make it a nice place.”

The Sunflower Dash will also capitalize on Hinton’s work with the Meadville Area Middle School Garden Club, which she meets with twice each week. Club members help maintain the MAMS garden and have prepared about 25 “seed bombs” to be planted by volunteers in vacant lots. The “bombs” are small clay vessels containing soil and seeds. Many of the seeds used in the bombs come from past MAMS garden sunflowers, Hinton said.

If 25 seed bombs doesn’t sound like much, not too worry, Hinton said. The group has also purchased 5,000 seeds and will be distributing them free to whoever would like to plant some.

Not only was John Hartnett, one of several leaders of Thankful Thursdays, excited about the idea of spreading sunflowers around the city, he was also excited about how the group’s efforts helped to motivate Hinton and how Hinton, in turn, motivated the group to become involved with this project.

“We are also hoping that people willing to host sunflowers in their yards will reach out through the Facebook page,” Hartnett said in an email. “We will then dispatch volunteers to them and help them plant the flowers or alternately they are welcome to join in the fun at the Diamond on Thursday and help plant seeds for others and take home some for themselves!”

Planting sunflowers together, like cleaning up trash in the community together, is both symbolic and practical, according to Hartnett.

“It fits in with the Thankful Thursdays' ethos of beautifying our community’s shared spaces and allowing people from different walks of life to engage in something positive together,” he said. “Planting Sunflower seeds are also allegorical for the change we are hoping to engender in our community, planting seeds of hope and trust towards a happier, healthier lives for all community members.”

Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at

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