Ward cleanup program revived

(Caitlan Butler/News-Times)
(Caitlan Butler/News-Times)

Keep El Dorado Beautiful and members of the El Dorado City Council have agreed to revive their ward cleanup program.

On March 9, KEB invited city officials to an informal meeting to discuss the matter.

Immediately after the council's regular meeting adjourned, the groups moved upstairs to the second-floor conference room of City Hall, where they engaged in dinner and conversation.

In 2018, KEB launched a cleanup campaign in which the group worked with the city council to coordinate community cleanups in each of the city's four wards.

To encourage and boost participation from the community, KEB offered $300 cash to volunteer teams that had at least 10 members and met other criteria to receive the cash.

The cash incentives were funded by a donation from Clean Harbors. Clean Harbors' general manager, Dan Roblee, is a member of KEB.

The aim of the program was to host one community cleanup per quarter in a designated ward.

The cleanups were headed up by council members in their respective wards, with assistance from KEB.

During the first year, KEB and city council members worked out a few kinks in the program, including scheduling the cleanups in accordance with seasonal temperatures and clarifying the criteria for eligibility to receive the cash incentives, which were available to 12 teams per cleanup.

For instance, KEB addressed an issue in which a volunteer team did not retain all 10 members throughout one of the ward cleanups.

"You must start with at least 10 and end with at least 10," KEB president Janis Van Hook said at the time.

The ward cleanup program lasted for two years, 2018 and 2019, before a global pandemic and a lack of funding put the kibosh on the effort.

In late 2019, Roblee told KEB members that Clean Harbors would not be able to include funding for the cash incentives in its budget for the next fiscal year.

As KEB members began looking into potential funding sources to continue the incentive program in 2020, COVID-19 struck and slowed activity for the group, who canceled the ward cleanups for the next three years.

Talk of reviving the ward cleanups began to stir in 2022 and last month, KEB agreed to poll city officials to see if they would be on board for a revival.

KEB also learned that Clean Harbors would renew its commitment to fund the cash incentives for volunteer teams this year.

On March 9, KEB and city officials participated in a meeting of the minds and Roblee provided information about how the cash-incentive program will work.

KEB members explained that the new iteration of the program will focus on youth volunteer groups -- including church groups, sports teams and youth development and service groups (Camp Fire, girl and boy scouts, The Young Artist Studio, etc.).

"We want to help our youth. Kids who are in these groups could always use some money to assist with their activities," Van Hook said. "They always need money for uniforms, travel, equipment and things like that."

Giving youth groups priority with the cash incentives also helps KEB to advance its mission of engaging the community in building a sustainable cleanup campaign for the city and expanding its outreach among local youth.

KEB's focus areas are litter prevention, recycling and beautification.

Some youth groups, including The Young Artist Studio, regularly host community cleanups and have worked with KEB to adopt city streets to keep clean.

Initially, the ward cleanups were to spread across each quarter, with one cleanup held in each ward, per quarter, starting with Ward 1 in the first quarter and ending with Ward 4 in the final quarter of the year.

KEB and the city council agreed to coordinate two ward cleanups in the spring and two in the fall this year, noting that summer and winter temperatures are not typically favorable for such activity.

City council members said they will get back to KEB with a tentative schedule to coordinate cleanups in their respective ward.

"Instead of doing ward 1, 2, 3 and 4 in order, we may swap out dates. Maybe, we'll do 2 and 3 in the spring or 1 and 4 in the fall," said Van Hook. "We won't know for sure until they get back with us."

For more information about KEB, visit the group's Facebook page or call Van Hook at 870-918-2706.

Local residents are also encouraged to participate in the Great American Cleanup, which began March 1 and ends May 31.

Residents who participate in group or individual cleanup activities may reach out to KEB for assistance and to log their volunteer hours with KEB, the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission and Keep America Beautiful.

Upcoming Events