More than 11,500 flowers will be planted Saturday, May 14, 2022, at Veterans Memorial Circle at the intersection of North Main and Auburn streets in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
Get our newsletter

ROCKFORD — More than 11,000 flowers will be planted this weekend at North Main and Auburn streets as part of a neighborhood group’s ongoing effort to show appreciation to veterans.

This is the fourth year of the volunteer Veterans Memorial Circle beautification project, which was undertaken by west-side residents when the city couldn’t keep pace with the upkeep of the colorful flowers at the intersection. The Friends of Veterans Memorial Circle was born out of a committee of the Churchill’s Grove Neighborhood Association, but it has support from residents across the city including Signal Hill, North End Square and Edgewater neighborhoods.

“We make sure every veteran knows this is all done for them,” said Army veteran Ernie Redfern, who co-chairs the group with his wife, Helen Karakoudas Redfern. “It really is 100% focused on appreciation for veterans and their families.”

Karakoudas Redfern said a recent U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs report on preventing veteran suicide said that small things community members do to show care can make a difference for veterans who are struggling. Suicide prevention coordinators from the local VA office were among the earliest volunteers for the project, and they provide resources for veterans and their families at every annual planting.

Related: Veterans Memorial Circle to look its best year-round thanks to donation from Village Green Nursery

This year, 11,570 flowers will be planted, including 432 perennials. There are about 90 volunteers expected so far, but Karakoudas Redfern said they need a little more than 150 to get the job done in one day. The annual planting day starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, and it is expected to wrap up around 3:30 p.m.

“It’s an annual effort with a perennial commitment,” Karakoudas Redfern said.

Related: ‘They give back to everybody’: Rockford veteran known for his generosity gifted home makeover

The group doesn’t accept any public money for the project. All flowers and necessities for the volunteers are purchased with money raised from donors in the community. It costs an estimated $9,400 for the beatification project. Flowers are purchased from Village Green Nursery on North Main and Didier Greenhouses, which both offer discounts and each year provide additional flowers beyond what was ordered.

This year will be the most flowers planted for the beatification project. There were 6,200 planted in the first year in 2019 and about 9,000 last year.

(story continues below photos)

Veterans Memorial Circle planting day | By the numbers

11,570 total flowers

11,094 annuals

432 perennials

12 bushes

32 arborvitae trees

1,650 flowers to be planted per hour

Source: Friends of Veterans Memorial Circle

How to help

You can donate to the project at or you can volunteer to help plant on Saturday. Questions can be directed to the Friends of Veterans Memorial Circle by contacting them here.

This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas 

Tags: , , ,