Keep Liberty Beautiful’s year-long quest to raise environmental awareness through community service projects, culminated recently with some national recognition.
Early this month, Sara Swida, director of Keep Liberty Beautiful, went to Washington, D.C., to receive a first -place award in the Litter Prevention category from the national organization Keep America Beautiful.
Swida won the award after orchestrating a county-wide Litter Prevention campaign, which she called the Great American Cleanup. Equipped with 938 volunteers, the group cleaned more than 43 miles of roads and public areas, and conducted several recycling and educational projects.
Swida is proud of the group’s efforts and gives credit to the volunteers who gave their time and energy.
"You can’t win awards without having outstanding volunteers," she said. "It’s really all about the volunteers."
While volunteers were vital, Leah Poole, director for United Way of the Coastal Empire, partnered with Swida on many of the programs, and said she couldn’t have asked for a partner who cares more about her community than Sara.
"The award is a really big deal," Poole said. "She really pours her heart and soul into the program."
The award-winning community challenge was fueled by a friendly rivalry between participating organizations, a challenge that she said encouraged a healthy competition where no matter what, the entire community won.
"It gave people a chance to start thinking green," said Swida.
Swida said the challenge included Earth Day activities, stormwater pollution educational programs, as well as many recycling drives and cleaning events.
"It’s good because a lot of children attended the events, and they learn from an early age that cleaning-up the earth is important," she said."It’s fun but also educational."
Swida said although the trip to the nation’s capital was quick, she had a great time and was proud to represent Liberty County on a national level.
"It was really exciting," she said. "We’re a small community competing against much larger communities that have more people and resources, so it really says something about our community."
The work of Liberty County volunteers also caught the attention of the state branch, Keep Georgia Beautiful, which awarded Keep Liberty Beautiful with a second-place Affiliate Award.
Swida said that award goes to groups that make a difference all year long.
"The award recognizes the outstanding efforts of the local volunteers who work to eradicate litter in our community and who work to reduce waste and promote recycling," Swida said.
Swida, who has worked with Keep Liberty Beautiful since 2007, said she has seen a lot of growth in the number of people willing to help. She said some major supporters include the Kiwanis Club, United Way, the Rotary Club, and the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce.