Coordinating Lilly 'Day of Service' a major undertaking

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It seems so simple: Color-coding five interchanges along Interstate 70 on the city’s west side so the scores of volunteers converging Thursday along the roadway know where to go.

But when you’re trying to organize 8,500 people who will be planting roughly 1,600 trees and 72,000 shrubs and perennials as part of a massive beautification project, simple is good.

“We’ve been working on this for more than two years,” said Mark Adler, director of special projects for Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Inc. “We’ve tried to come up with every scenario that possibly could go wrong and talk about it.”

Lilly Day of Service 2010 Deidre Woods hands a plant up to other volunteers working on beautifying a largely industrial stretch of I-70. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

KIB is spearheading the effort, in which Eli Lilly and Co. will contribute the time of more than 8,200 employees, to spruce up the interchanges. The project has closed a six-mile stretch of the interstate, extending from Interstate 465 to the west to Interstate 65 to the east, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Volunteers began arriving at 5:30 a.m. A second shift will relieve them at about 1 p.m.

Those given yellow passes are directed to the Meridian Street interchange, for instance, and volunteers with orange passes will be working at Illinois and Capital streets. Red has been assigned to West Street, green to Harding Street and blue to the Sam Jones Expressway near Interstate 465.

Volunteers under the leadership of 400 or so team captains—each responsible for about 30 Lilly employees—have been instructed to carpool to their work stations. Each vehicle must contain at least four volunteers, to reduce the amount of necessary parking spaces.

“Since I-70 will be closed, that will become our parking lot,” Adler said.

KIB is partnering with Lilly on what the pharmaceutical giant has dubbed its annual “Global Day of Service.” It's the third and largest Day of Service project Lilly has has undertaken.

Sherrie Bossung, Lilly’s director of community outreach, began coordinating this year’s event by e-mailing the company’s top 50 executives. They, in turn, identified someone in their department—marketing, finance etc.—to be a coordinator. They are the so-called captains who oversee their teams.

If something should go awry, Bossung said “it won’t be because we didn’t have every detail worked out ahead of time.”

Bossung coordinated the weekly meetings in which leaders were kept apprised of project details. But it’s Adler at KIB who is calling the shots on Thursday.

Like a high-ranking general directing troops, Adler isn’t anywhere near the field of action, however. Instead, he’s stationed at the Indiana Department of Transportation’s traffic management center near 21st Street and Post Road, on the far-east side.

There, he’ll be in contact by a radio that is programmed to have one channel dedicated to each intersection.

“The brain trust for the logistics for the day is going to be about seven or eight miles away,” KIB President David Forsell said. “But Mark has the availability to talk to everyone and hear everything.”

Volunteers finishing the early shift, and those relieving them in the afternoon are encouraged to eat lunch together with their teams. They are responsible for their own tools and food. The parking lots at Lucas Oil Stadium and the old Indianapolis International Airport terminal have been opened to serve as picnic areas.

Coordinating meals for the thousands of hungry volunteers would have been much too difficult and expensive, Adler conceded.

Workers on the morning shift are planting on the south side of I-70, or near the eastbound lanes, while those in the afternoon will be on the north side, or near the westbound lanes.

One lane of the interstate will remain unblocked the entire day, in case of emergency. The Red Cross and ambulances are stationed at each interchange.

Six area businesses have “adopted” interchanges and are responsible for maintaining the new plants: DEEM, a mechanical and electrical company; Duke Realty Co.; Elanco; Indianapolis Colts; MS Companies; and RJE Knoll Business Interiors.

The federal government provided a grant to match the $1 million Lilly contributed to the project.



  • Where is it from?
    Jen: The money is not from taxpayers? Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha. Where do you think the "federal transportation enhancement grant" got their money from? They got it from you and me! Well me at least. I work. Lilly and KIB, Give the $1 m that you stole, back! AND three of the interchanges "beautified" are right in front of the Lilly campus. Self Serving!
    Great job everyone! I can't believe how many people just freaked out about shutting down I-70. If it were up to those lumps to do something around here, we'd be waiting until we were dead to do something nice. Anyone who puts out the effort to plan an event like this with the rediculous logistics involved wins my respect. As for the money, who gives a crap. How many people who are complaining are going to vote for their Federal legislators who put us 3 trillion in debt? After the election you can make your point again...if you have the kahones to vote out those thieves.
  • Relax
    Wow, I'd really hate to live a day in the life of some of you people. Complaining about planting bushes and trees. Sure 2 million dollars could be used on numerous things, but this was a nice project for the City and who cares if it is Lilly's backyard or even solely for the Super Bowl.

    Think about when you travel to a different city. Certain minute details leave an impression on you. Some people might enjoy the nice landscaping and give them a good impression of our City. If that gets them to come back and visit again, well that can only be good for the economy.

    250,000 people may visit Indy for the Super Bowl and if 10% of them come back on a different trip, that's a nice chunk of change filtered back through the local economy.

    Relax and worry about something else for a change.
  • thank you!
    Thanks to KIB, the city and INDOT for a well-organized, rewarding, exhausting day.
  • You're missing the point, folks
    This is for the Super Bowl.
  • Jen Has no Friends
    That Jen chick must be a box of rocks. She gets all juiced up over this self serving project.
  • Resume
    Ah what to do now? Mark Adler, everyone wants (or wanted) his job. Now, his resume says Team Leader for 9,000 member research and hands-on team enhancing Chloroform enrichment.
  • Continue Landscape
    It would be nice to continue this beautification project through downtown to the I-65 West St. The east side where I-70/I-65 run together and the northeast interchange also needs beautification.
  • um, don't the feds get their money from taxes?
    Or do they just print more money?
  • Money is not from taxpayers!
    Here are the facts about the funding from this project. Go read more on IndyStar.com

    A federal transportation enhancement grant worth $1 million and another $1 million from Lilly is funding the massive project.
    • Right on Chiqui!
      Chiqui is spot on. I would guess that a third of the work is done at downtown ramps, right in front of the Lilly campus. Self serving! It has only recently came out that taxpayers footed $1 Million for this stupid project. Hey Lilly and Keep Indy Beautiful - Next year take the 8000 volunteers out to the 30 or so parks in Marion County. 200 or so wonderful volunteers could do more good there, than a self serving, needless project. I do applaud the volunteers. They are not to blame for this waste of taxpayer $, the folks who approved it should be held responsible.

      I have heard that next year, the plan is to close the airport for a day, so volunteers can release doves and butterflies.....

      Lilly: give the $1m back!
    • Absurd!
      rwh - I-70 from downtown to the Airport is not an eyesore. You must be driving a different road. A local TV station ran a poll (unscientific but still quite valid) that said 20% support this project on a work day. 80% either do not support it at all or opine that it needs to be done on a weekend. Many of the exits downtown that are being "beautified" are right in front of the Lilly campus. I find this self serving and basically taxpayers have helped them beautify their own area. Give the $1M back!
    • Priorities
      My husband and I, as Lilly contractors, are participating in Lilly day of Service, but one cannot forget that there are so many other areas that could have used the help of volunteers, as well as the muscle that $1 provide. I wonder how the priorities are established when a project is selected for the "Day of Service"
      • Whoo-hoo!
        What an awesome project! KIB and Lilly rock for doing this. Thanks so much! Can't wait to see the results!!
        • Skewed
          I find the scale of this project to be wildly misaligned given the neighborhoods that surround this project. I commend Lilly for its desire to make a difference in the community. I even understand the suggested potential benefit for the city. But I can't help but imagine what these efforts might look like if instead of a giant landscaping project, we were seeing siding replaced on someone's home, windows being repaired or replaced, playgrounds being repaired or even built from the ground up, or groceries being bought and delivered to families. Just steps away from all these new plants, children have nowhere to play, houses are falling apart, and someone will undoubtedly go without dinner tonight. In my mind that is very hard to justify.
        • Maintenance
          I think this is a wonderful undertaking. The I-70 route from the airport to downtown was definitely an eyesore. This landscaping and art will definitely help. Sound barrier walls should be added in some areas to help screen some of the industrial and residential areas. This would also help. I think the big problem will be how will this be maintained. We all know who both the State and City maintain our roadways. I know they are saying this is somewhat maintenance free but some of these wildflower/grasslands look horrible adjacent to the interstates and interchanges. They begin over the summer like unmowed weeds. Indianpolis and Indiana definitely need help in maintaining our roadways and medians. The median sponsors along 86th St. does not work.
        • Bravo!
          Just one non-Lilly-connected citizen's thanks to the Lilly employees and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. (BTW, Lilly already has given money to the library -- and has provided thousands of jobs to our city.) This is the sort of thing that will have a long-lasting positive impact.
        • At Least The Thought Was Nice
          I bet the library could use a $1 million dollar gift from Eli Lilly if they want to do something for the community.
        • Applause
          This is a fantastic undertaking, for which I am grateful to Lilly and all of those who are involved in the massive planning and excution.

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        1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

        2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

        3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

        4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

        5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.