Each year, employees of real estate franchise Keller Williams take on projects in their respective communities to improve the area. In the Birmingham-Bloomfield area, the employees revitalized a nature center behind Bingham Farms Elementary School.

Each year, employees of real estate franchise Keller Williams take on projects in their respective communities to improve the area. In the Birmingham-Bloomfield area, the employees revitalized a nature center behind Bingham Farms Elementary School.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Volunteer group revitalizes shuttered school nature center

By: Brendan Losinski | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 14, 2018

BINGHAM FARMS — Birmingham Public Schools’ nature center was revitalized May 10 so it can be put to use once more, thanks to the efforts of volunteers from real estate franchise Keller Williams as part of their RED Day initiative.

Standing for “Renew, Energize, Donate,” RED Day is a program that Keller Williams employees take part in each year to fix a project in their local communities. With more than 180,000 associates across the United States working out of more than 800 offices, this means hundreds of projects being done simultaneously across the country.

The Birmingham Schools Environmental Center — which is located behind Bingham Farms Elementary School, near 13 Mile Road, east of Telegraph Road — was chosen because of the potential benefits it could provide if made available to students once more.

“We have trimmed the overgrown trails, re-outlined the trails with wood barriers and spread 50 tons of wood chips, all in one day,” said Christina Gennari, an associate broker at Keller Williams and one of the employees leading the project. “We also cleaned up the public spaces and removed litter.”

The site includes resources such as winding nature trails, a pavilion, beehives, bat boxes, and plaques explaining the different types of flora and fauna throughout the area.

The nature center was shut down 10 years ago due to budget cuts within the school district.

“When the district had the environmental program, there was a caretaker here who would live in a house on the property and take care of the trail,” said Bingham Farms Elementary Principal Russ Faccione. “We just didn’t have the resources in the last few years to care for the trail, but now Keller Williams was able to bring enough people in on the project to fix it back up so classes can use it again.”

Faccione said day-to-day maintenance of the nature center will be done by volunteers like Scout troops and parent groups, and the district is looking into filling the caretaker role once again, which has been vacant since 2010.

Teachers in the district can use the nature center as an aid to their lessons or simply as a change of scenery on sunny days.

“The classroom teachers are more than happy to bring the kids back here on nature walks in the spring or to give them options when teaching them about nature and the outdoors,” Faccione said. “It hasn’t been part of our school community in a while, and we’re thrilled we have it available to the kids again.”

RED Day began at Keller Williams as a way to honor CEO Mo Williams, who was known for her philanthropy. The company wanted to use her as an example and take on projects each year on the second Thursday in May — always within days of Williams’ birthday.

“It started in 2009 as a way to give back worldwide,” said Jodee Gibson, another associate broker who helped lead the project. “The motto is ‘Give where you live.’ Last year, we identified seniors in Birmingham who had no family or support, and we helped revitalize their homes and yards. Another year, we built a barrier-free park in Ferndale so kids with disabilities could still enjoy it, while another year, we redid a park in Royal Oak.”

The volunteers at Keller Williams said they were particularly proud of this project because of the number of young lives that could be improved by repairing the nature center.

“It’s not only a project that will help the whole district, it’s a project that will directly benefit the kids,” said Gibson. “With so much technology out there, we like to remind them these resources are out here; and because it’s a district property, it isn’t just students from Bingham Farms Elementary who can use it, but the thousands of students in Birmingham Schools.”

Food for the workers and supplies for the project were donated by several entities, including DTE Energy, Main Street Bank and Brady’s Tavern.

The district expressed its appreciation for the volunteers, and Faccione lauded them for a job well done.

“I just want to give such an incredible heartfelt thank-you to Keller Williams,” remarked Faccione. “The trail looks like it did 15 years ago when it was in its heyday. It will be one of the most impactful things to help this school in the last several years.”