BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Following a flurry of entries into its "Green Spaces Make Great Places" grant program, The Toro Company has selected the four finalist organizations that will compete for $15,000 in grant awards. Each of the four organizations submitted a video explaining their proposed initiative and how the grant would help further their efforts to improve green spaces. The public will have until Nov. 21, 2014, to vote on Facebook

The organization earning the most votes will receive a $7,000 first-place grant; the second-place organization will be awarded a $4,000 grant; and the remaining two organizations will each be given $2,000 grants. Winners will be announced Nov. 26, 2014. The goal of Toro’s grant program is to help support green initiatives that improve the quality of communities across the country by:

  • Restoring healthy green spaces (replacing asphalt or other hardscaping with grass, plants and other natural materials).
  • Revitalizing and maintaining parks, school grounds or other green spaces.
  • Enhancing neighborhoods (planting trees, grass, shrubs and plants).
  • Educating children about the value and benefits of green spaces.

The four finalists are:

  • Wonder Workshop: The Wonder Workshop Children’s Museum in Manhattan, Kansas, is working to create a new outdoor garden space that is healthy and green. The program’s goal is to teach kids how to grow healthy foods, and give them a safe and fun place to play outdoors.
  • Unity Charter School: The school, located in Morristown, New Jersey, recently relocated to a larger building that happens to sit in a semi-industrial area with a lack of green space. With funds raised by the parents in the community, they created a playground and small turf field. They would like to transform an additional area to serve as an outdoor classroom for students.
  • Growing Solutions: The Julie+Michael Tracy Foundation and Growing Solutions Farm, located in Chicago, Illinois, took a barren 1.5-acre city plot and are converting it into a vocational therapeutic garden to help young adults with autism learn life and career skills.
  • Irmo Arbor Day Commission: The IADC is raising funds to complete major beautification projects at local schools and in other areas around the town of Irmo, South Carolina. In addition to creating green areas for kids, funds raised by the organization have helped beautify a new veteran’s park and facilitated the planting of crepe myrtles along the railroad tracks that run through the town.

This year marks the second annual "Green Spaces Make Great Places" grant program, which awards funds to communities and nonprofits seeking to improve landscapes across America. The previous winner, Lincolnshire-Prairie View School District 103, used its $7,000 grant to renovate the landscape and hardscape surrounding the playground at Laura B. Sprague Elementary School in Lincolnshire, Illinois. Other runners-up have launched projects to beautify outdoor environments, such as neighborhood parks.

Visit www.facebook.com/toro.yard to learn more, and to help select this year’s grant recipients.