Earth Day Celebration
Friday, April 22, 3:30-6:30 p.m. at the YMCA soccer fields,
Mary Lou Drive, Hinesville
• Great American Challenge Cleanup for Walthourville and Allenhurst — April 30
• Recycle It! Fairs — May 7
• Woodland Lakes Cleanup Day — May 7
• Catherine’s Beach Sweep — May 14
• KLB Volunteer Appreciation Day — May 26
Coastal Georgia is known for its salt marshes, vast landscape and historical roots. This is why many people choose to live in Liberty County. With an area of more than 600 square miles, it isn’t an easy task keeping the area clean.
Since 1983, Keep Liberty Beautiful has helped manage the quality of life in the community with the help of local volunteers. An affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, KLB defines itself as a community education and volunteer action program that aims to improve the environment with litter prevention, recycling and beautification.
Keep Liberty Beautiful Director Sara Swida said the heart of the organization is the volunteers and other businesses that partner to help complete community projects.
“We partner with so many groups, organizations and churches to help develop a plan surrounding their interests, but they are the ones that implement the plan,” she said.
KLB strives for people to help the community in any way they can. As a group with an environmental interest, the members offer strategic planning and resources to aid in group projects. Networking grows the volunteer pool and introduces organizations to each other that all have the goal of improving Liberty County.
Outside of consulting, KLB hosts a number of events to educate residents, which make it easier to reach their goals. Litter prevention, waste reduction, community improvement and water conservation are the organization’s main objectives.
One of the most popular local events is the annual Earth Day Celebration. More than a thousand people gather in the YMCA soccer fields to attend this educational event with more than 70 booths of games, displays and vendors related to environmental topics. Last year, more than 350 volunteered and there was no litter after it was over. The event serves as a fun, free way to teach the community about the planet.
“If you litter on the road, when it rains, it leads to drains, which every drain in Liberty County connects to a waterway — thus affecting aquatic life as well. At our Earth Day Celebration, every board member is required to attend, and we educate residents on how easy it is to make a change,” said David Sapp, the chairman of Keep Liberty Beautiful advisory board.
Because he has been involved with KLB since 1985, Sapps has witnessed the change in the community’s effort. With 4,400 volunteers and 194 partnerships, 35,870 pounds of litter was picked up collectively all of last year. There are 17 locations that are continuously monitored throughout the county to see if litter is being reduced. Compared to 10 years ago, less than half of the amount is being recorded.
In the spring, every city in Liberty County participates in a challenge called the Great American Cleanup. KLB provides all of the cleanup supplies, and the city provides post-cleanup picnics for volunteers.
“Not only does this encourage people to pick up litter, but it makes a powerful statement for those who pass by,” Swida said. “We are educating the public that we don’t want this in our community.”
Recycling is another process that can help eliminate waste, which will improve the ecosystem. It can also save money. KLB focuses on educating youth so they can develop waste-management habits that they continue for the rest of their lives. In 2008, a record-breaking project throughout the Liberty County School System opened the eyes of many students to recycling.
“We asked them to collect crayons and after 119 were collected, we made the Guinness world record for the largest crayon achieved by an organization,” Swida said. “It helped the students consider reusing and recycling products.”
Although recycling and litter prevention may seem like obvious ways to help the environment, many fail to realize that beautification also helps the community. Something as simple as planting a garden or cleaning up a yard can be considered a beautifying project. It makes the landscape more attractive while encouraging residents to maintain their greenspace.
“Beautification improves the appearance of the community in the general public, which fosters better business opportunities and quality of life,” Sapps said. “Our programs such as Home Proud or Neat Neighborhoods awards those that make an effort to having an attractive yard.”
Participants, volunteers and different organizations are the backbone of KLB. The amount of dedication put forth in the last 10 years has won Liberty County more than 45 national environmental awards. Swida and Sapps both agree that it is an accomplishment, but as long as there is litter, there isn’t a reason to stop working.