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The ninth installment of the Union County Leadership class (ULEAD), which is offered by the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce, has selected a cleanup for its class project, and the community is invited to participate.

The cleanup is set for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday and will focus on Timberlane between West Hillsboro and Mount Holly Road.

Volunteers will meet in the parking lot of the former El Dorado High School, which is adjacent to the South Arkansas Arboretum at 501 Timberlane.

Janis Van Hook, president of Keep El Dorado Beautiful, said KEB is glad to see ULEAD take an interest in helping to keep the city clean, adding that KEB is assisting with the cleanup on Saturday.

“We have already ordered them supplies and they will be sent directly to the Chamber (of Commerce). They have registered with KEB and we have registered them with Keep Arkansas Beautiful,” Van Hook said. “Anybody who wants to come out and help them is welcome to.”

KEB members spoke with ULEADers on Nov. 18, months after the group had invited KEB to one of its class sessions to discuss KEB’s mission and goals and to find out how to get involved.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic put the invite on hold but Van Hook said that once the groups finally got together, the meeting proved to be productive, with KEB fielding thoughtful questions and ULEAD class members expressing interest in coordinating a community clean-up.

The project is in keeping with KEB’s mission of building a sustainable, citywide clean-up campaign that engages and educates local residents about tools and resources that are available for litter prevention, waste reduction, recycling and beautification and improvement of public spaces.

Kaitlyn Rigdon, communications and finance coordinator for the Chamber, said that ULEADers began discussing options for a community service project, which is required for graduation, from the very first class session in 2020.

The purpose of ULEAD is to help develop community and civic leaders.

“We all agreed that a clean-up would be a great way to give back to the community. I contacted (Van Hook) … and asked her to come speak to our class to give us guidance and direction on how to complete such a task,” Rigdon said.

Following the meeting with Van Hook and other KEB members, Rigdon said the 13 ULEAD class members grew even more motivated and set about coordinating the cleanup and adopting the section of Timberlane between Hillsboro and Mount Holly Road to extend the class’s community service project beyond a one-day event.

“We decided it would be more meaningful if we could officially adopt the street we were to clean, which would also mean we would be able to all come together a few times a year to clean our adopted road in the future,” said Rigdon.

Van Hook said Rigdon reached out to her shortly after Christmas Day and informed her of the group’s plans for the clean-up and the street adoption.

“I’m thankful that they have stepped up and I hope it encourages other groups and businesses. It is a blessing and every little bit helps,” Van Hook said.

She added that KEB member Dianne Hammond, who also serves on the El Dorado City Council, is looking into posting a street sign to officially designate the ninth ULEAD class as the adopters of the section of Timberlane that is north of Hillsboro.

The event on Saturday will mark the first community clean-up of 2021 and the first to be held since the initial wave of COVID-19 struck last March.

KEB members put such activities and their regular monthly meetings on hold because of the pandemic. Van Hook said they are still exercising caution as it pertains to COVID-19.

She commended individual residents and small groups regularly pick up litter from city streets and she said she hopes volunteers will adopt the south section of Timberlane between Hillsboro and Robert E. Lee.

“We need some attention down there, too,” said Van Hook.

For more information about the ULEAD class clean-up, call the Chamber of Commerce at 870-863-6113 or Van Hook at 870-918-2706.

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