On July 25th, early Saturday morning, groups of Hinesville citizens gathered at different local sites around Liberty County to participate in the Great American Cleanup hosted by Keep Liberty Beautiful. According to The Great American Cleanup website, the cleanup is claimed to be “the nation’s largest community improvement program, which takes place annually in an estimated 15,000 communities nationwide”. The director of Keep Liberty Beautiful, Dr. Karen Bell, chose main locations in Liberty County such as the Walthourville City Hall and Bradwell Park to make sure that the whole county was covered with volunteers. The cleanup campaigned against two specific issues: cigarette litter and throwing trash out the window.
Recently there has been a new form of litter. “We have found some personal protective equipment (masks and gloves) on the ground and I think it’s because people probably get hot and sweaty so they stick it in their pocket and it flies out. I’m hoping they're not intentionally just throwing it out. But that’s just another form of litter they have found especially on the roadways. Hopefully we’re going to look at having more trash cans so as you’re walking you have some place to put it at”, says Bell.
The newly formed Liberty County Boys and Girls Club decided to meet at Cedar Hill in Walthourville to plant flower arrangements in addition to picking up picking up litter in the Holmestown community. When asked why they chose the neighborhood to decorate, Sherry Baker, the secretary of the Boys and Girls club, said, “The location is a great spot because it’s near the main highway. Notice we have big plants and we have small plants. So as they’re going up and down the road they can see something and actually relate to it and own it. They can say to themselves ‘we planted those arrangements’. They can watch it grow up with them. It’s sort of a reminder to not pollute and watch the cigarette butts. They will see the beautification and will always remember I should take care of the Earth.”
Keep Liberty Beautiful could always use more volunteers for their cleanup programs. Most of the volunteers for this type of event are usually older residents of Liberty County. Because of the pandemic a lot of the seniors did not sign up. “We can always use volunteers. Even through this COVID-19. Normally this is a large event. Today we probably had about 300 participating today when normally we would have 600 or more. We have to stay safe and we’re doing that by doing a hand free check in- so no paper. They can walk up and scan a barcode with their phones. We’re taking temperatures and keeping smaller groups. We’re trying and we just want people to know that they can still volunteer,” Dr. Bell said.
Although the usual crowd wasn’t there for the cleanup, there were still younger participants who showed up because of their dedication to keeping a healthy earth like the Kozak- Baumgartner family. “I’m actually a certified naturalist with UGA. So that’s actually how I came to learn about Keep Liberty Beautiful. We’re really into keeping a healthy environment. It’s important to our family, said Ashley Kozak-Baumgartner, the mother of the family. Her daughter, Lexington, is the green leader of Keep Liberty Beautiful. “I heard that there weren't that many volunteers so I invited my whole family”, said Lexington.
It’s not too late to volunteer for the Great American Cleanup. The second clean up date is Aug 15. If interested call (912) 880-4888 or email the director at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any group or business that wants to volunteer will be provided with gloves, masks, trash bags, etc. and they can pick whatever area they like. Keep Liberty Beautiful has more projects lined up in the future, “Right now, Dr. Bell said. “We have a grant that we’re excited for on MLK St. that we’re looking to do some projects on. We have the ‘Georgia Coastal is not an Ashtray’ and that’s with seven other counties along the coastal highway. Rivers Alive is coming up in October, which is another clean up.”
When the director was asked what motivates her to get up so early in the morning to pick up trash she said, “It’s just the idea of making a difference to keep our area clean. What motivated us this morning was the sun that we got up extra early! But it’s just that making sure that where you live, sleep and play is a clean and beautiful place to live”.
See a photo gallery from the cleanup here: https://coastalcourier.com/news/great-american-cleanup-2020/