Ward cleanups to pick up next month

Street adoption program ongoing

Keep El Dorado Beautiful is heading into the third quarter of the year the same way it has spent the rest of 2023 -- with a busy schedule.

Coming off an appearance at the SouthArk Outdoor Expo, the group is planning to resume its 2023 ward cleanups, in coordination with members of the El Dorado City Council, next month.

KEB is working with the city council to hold community cleanups in each of the city's four wards.

Council members organize the cleanups in their respective wards and KEB helps to coordinate the events by providing supplies, sack lunches and cash incentives for volunteer teams who participate in the cleanups.

After community cleanups were held last spring in wards 1 and 3, KEB members agreed to suspend the effort until outdoor temperatures cooled down in the fall.

A community cleanup for Ward 2 has been set for 9 - 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 14.

During a regular meeting Monday, KEB members said several slots are available to volunteer teams.

The ward cleanup program offers a cash incentive of $300 to volunteer teams of 10 or more.

The program prioritizes youth groups -- including sports teams, church groups and youth development and service organizations, etc. -- to assist with expenses that are often associated with membership in such groups.

The program also serves to inspire young people to buy into KEB's ongoing efforts to build a sustainable cleanup campaign in El Dorado, with a focus on litter, recycling and beautification.

"We're always asking youth to sign up first. We're not excluding adults but we're trying to key in to help nonprofit youth groups," said Janis Van Hook, president of KEB.

Approximately eight volunteer slots are still available for the Ward 2 cleanup in October, Van Hook said.

"We've already had four groups to volunteer to participate and they're anxious to get back to the business at hand, to what they signed up to do to get the incentive money," Van Hook said.

"If we run out of slots, I'll just put them down for the next cleanup in Ward 4," she added. "Groups that are interested in the Ward 4 cleanup, we urge them to contact us as soon as possible before all the slots are filled."

Typically, 10 slots per cleanup are available for the cash incentive program but Van Hook explained that several volunteer groups canceled during the Ward 3 cleanup in late April.

"We had slots open from the last cleanup, so this time we have 14 slots instead of 10," Van Hook said.

To register a volunteer team for the Ward 2 cleanup, call Van Hook at 870-918-2706 or Council Member and KEB member Dianne Hammond at 870-866-0111.

Volunteers will meet in the parking lot of the former El Dorado High School campus, 501 Timberlane, to receive assignments before fanning out into Ward 4 to pick up litter.

At 11:30 a.m., volunteers will be asked to return to the parking lot to receive cash awards and pick up sack lunches.

The cleanup for Ward 4 is scheduled for Nov. 4. Additional details are forthcoming.

Adopt-A-Street and Outdoor Expo

Volunteers who are interested in adopting a street or other area of the city to keep clean are also encouraged to reach out to KEB.

Van Hook said several people and groups have recently committed to adopting streets, including a local business that has taken on West Eighth Street between West and College avenues.

KEB recently ordered new signs to denote groups and individuals who have adopted city streets.

The signs may be customized with messages that fit within the space that is available.

"We had 50 signs and we ran out and we've gotten 50 more. We had about seven groups that had adopted streets and were waiting on signs and now we've got them," Van Hook said.

"We had H&R Block to come on board with Eighth Street and their sign says, 'Every block better,'" she noted.

Van Hook said scores of people stopped by KEB's community table during the SouthArk Outdoor Expo on Sept. 9 and several expressed interest in joining KEB's efforts.

"They left their names and we're trying to make contact with them to pin down the details, whether they want to adopt a street or participate in a cleanup," said Van Hook.

She estimated that KEB members met with approximately 200 visitors throughout the day.

"I had a box with 225 (children's activity) books and I had 25 of those workbooks left. It was the same with the car litter bags. We had 500 and we had 250 left," she recalled.

The group also handed out stickers, bookmarks, candy and T-shirts.

KEB member Jeri Ratcliff decorated the table with purple flowers, representing KEB's annual Earth Day beautification project.

Each year, the group partners with Hugh Goodwin and Yocum elementary schools to distribute low-maintenance, "Wildcat Purple" plants for students to take home to their families.

"At the expo, anybody who wanted pieces of the plant and to cut the ends, they could have, and several people came by and got some of those end pieces to take home," said Van Hook.

The day was capped off by an appearance from Otto the Otter, the mascot for the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission.

KEB member Rod Reynolds and a teenage member of the Young Artist Studio donned the costume and greeted with the crowd.

"The expo went wonderfully and kids loved Otto the Otter," said Van Hook.

Otto is slated to return for the El Dorado Christmas Parade on Dec. 7 and KEB hopes the mascot will be able to visit local elementary schools during the day.

Thank you

KEB members also set a date of Dec. 18 for their annual Christmas party and Van Hook said the invitation-only event will serve as a thank-you to volunteers who have participated in community cleanup projects this year.

"We're thanking everybody for what they've done this year. It has been a good year," said Van Hook.