by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Organizers hoped that April 10 would be an exciting day for Holy Name of Jesus School here.
Principal Randy Smith and a handful of staff members and volunteers were taking down the school’s monument sign in preparation for a brand-new one.
But what they discovered in the process surprised them.
“We took down the old sign,” said parishioner Doug Hermes, “and we found in the middle of it the original sign!
“It’s part of the history of the school.”
Suddenly, installing the new sign on May 3 took on unexpected emotion — a feeling of nostalgia mixed with promise — for the community.
“I think it’s a great indicator of how the school continues to move forward,” said Hermes.
The new sign is only one component of a landscaping renovation designed to boost curbside appeal for the school on Southwest Boulevard.
The goal is to “dress up [the area] and make it look like it’s a vibrant, local, neighborhood Catholic school,” said Hermes. “There’s a lot of things going on here. We want to have the front appearance reflect that.”
A ‘gratifying’ project — and a personal connection
An outdoor renovation at Holy Name has been in the making for years.
Under the leadership of a former principal, a group from the school met with Vince Florido, an outside sales rep at Midtown Signs, who offered them a discounted price for a monument sign.
For various reasons, the project didn’t move beyond initial discussions and draft proposals.
That was until Florido, a parishioner at Curé of Ars in Leawood, which happens to be Holy Name’s sister parish, reached back out to Hermes, one of the project’s key leaders.
This time, he had an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Midtown Signs had made a sign for a different church, but the sizing was off. It was similar to the one initially designed for Holy Name, and the company’s owner, Dennis Baughman, wanted to donate it to the school.
Essentially, all they had to pay for was the sign’s faces, painting and copy letters.
Presenting the offer was special for Florido, who was baptized at Holy Name.
“It’s really gratifying to be able to help Holy Name School and Parish with this sign,” he said.
It was also exciting for the entire Midtown Signs team.
“Dennis, our owner, loves signs,” said Florido. He believes a sign “has meaning, it has character, it means something to people — to the community.”
“It’s a snapshot in time,” added Florido. “It’s nostalgic.”
‘God had a plan for the front of our building’
The next item on the project’s list is beautifying the outdoor space surrounding the school.
Avery Nichols, a parishioner at St. Paul Parish in Olathe, is a landscape architect in training who’s sharing his talents to make this happen.
Nichols was approached by St. Paul pastor Father Michael Hermes about the prospect of creating a landscape plan for the school.
Father Hermes is the former pastor of Holy Name and Doug Hermes’ brother. Nichols couldn’t say no.
“This was an opportunity that came up that I definitely wanted to help with,” he said.
Nichols started by creating conceptual graphics and images and presenting them to the parish.
“I got their feedback on how they wanted the school and the church to look and to really make that space beautiful,” he said.
He then created a few concepts of planting and site design, and the team chose the one they wanted.
“It has definitely been meaningful to be able to help out . . . and be able to [offer] my profession and skills to [create] what they imagined for their site and transform that front entrance into something new,” said Nichols.
For Smith, receiving help from local Catholics from multiple parishes has been a special surprise.
“We didn’t specifically set out to do it this way,” he said. “It came about where everyone who started working with this project has some kind of Catholic tie.
“It’s almost like what I explain to the [students] all the time: God has a plan for each of us. God had a plan for the front of our building.”
This is Smith’s first year at Holy Name and he’s excited to play a part in improving its physical appearance.
“It’s going to make it an area that people don’t just drive by [and think of it as] another business or another place along Southwest Boulevard,” he said. “I think they’ll take notice of it.
“It’ll be something that people are curious about what’s happening next.”