Earlier this month Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation interviewed me, and I thought you would enjoy learning a little more about me:
Q&A with Karen Bell, Executive Director of Keep Liberty Beautiful
Tell us a little more about how you first got involved with Keep Liberty Beautiful (KLB). What led you to the position?
I started off volunteering as a student at Savannah Technical College. I was president of the honors society, Phi Theta Kappa, and Keep Liberty Beautiful was one of the organizations that we volunteered with. I began to do projects with them—cleanups and different things—and that was how I met the former executive director, Sara Swida. When she was ready to retire, she thought I would be a great fit for the organization. I was sad to see her go, but I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to have this job and serve my community. I don’t take it lightly, and I love doing what I do. Hopefully, our county benefits from that!
Why is improving the environment important to you?
You know what, we’ve got one planet, and if we don’t take care of it, it’s not going to take care of us! I think everyone should take that to heart. If we don’t, who else will? We all have to survive and live together. Growing up, I did a lot with the Girl Scouts and 4-H. I think that’s how my love for the environment actually came about. When I first got involved with Keep Liberty Beautiful, I learned even more about what we can do, like recycling, to make sure we have a planet to pass on. We need a place for people like my grandson to actually live on!
Do you have any favorite projects from over the years? Or even favorite moments?
I have always loved Earth Day. We usually create an obstacle course, which has the added benefit of giving the people going through it a little exercise! Along the way, the course teaches them—it includes a stop where people have to learn something about recycling to get through an obstacle, and another where they crawl through a “sewer” and discover the negative effects of litter going down a storm drain. We also have our youth make t-shirts about what the planet means to them. It’s just amazing to see their creations, and we always hang them up for everyone to see.
I also have to mention one of my favorite moments. This goes back to when I volunteered with Sara. We were preparing for school presentations, and I thought, why don’t I make a costume? I had a cape, and a Batman mask, of all things, leftover from Halloween. I also made a t-shirt with a lock and a lady on it, which was supposed to get people to think about unlocking knowledge. We got all dressed up and walked around the campus of my college and other community events doing rap songs. We made up one about recycling, another about water conservation, litter (laughing)…I can still picture it!
That sounds amazing. What does your affiliate look forward to in the future? What further impact do you hope to see in Liberty County?
Right now, with COVID-19, I just hope we make it to a cleanup! We get so many calls about it, like, can we do our cleanup yet? People are either getting bored, or they really love the environment. I’m going to go with the second one!
When we start back up, we’re going to have to think outside of the box and conduct our activities in a way that keeps us all safe. Every volunteer will wear a mask and gloves, and we’ll keep groups smaller and further apart from each other. I hope that’s something we can get back to soon.
I’d also love to see Liberty County have more community gardens and plant more trees. We need more pollinator plants! If we could have more people commit to gardens in our area, it would have an incredible impact on our community. Let’s all come together and make things beautiful!
Any advice for people looking to make their communities cleaner, greener, or more beautiful?
Before this, I was in the military for 26 years, and volunteering was always a constant for me. Every post I had, from California to Italy, Panama to Virginia, and then eventually, of course, the great state of Georgia, I volunteered. It’s in my blood, and I think everyone can serve, volunteer, and help out, no matter where you live. Just take baby steps! If your passion is recycling, or gardening, find out what you can about how it works in your community. Then get started!
To learn ways, you can get started with recycling, litter preventing, water conservation, and beautification, please contact Keep Liberty Beautiful (912) 880-4888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram, or our website www.keeplibertybeautiful.org