“Why I KLB” was the theme of Thursday’s Progress Through People Luncheon featuring Keep Liberty Beautiful.
A panel of board members and volunteers shared their experiences of working with KLB and how it benefitted their lives.
KLB Director Sara Swida called herself one of the luckiest people in world.
Swida said she has worked with 4,680 people who “love their community” this past year.
“If you don’t know about Keep Liberty Beautiful, we do community education and we also do volunteer action,” Swida said. “So it’s not that we just want you to learn what we may be doing with our community, we want you to take action and make it happen.”
KLB focuses on three main areas litter prevention; beautification and community improvement; waste reduction and recycling; and storm water pollution and water conservation.
“Over 40 percent of Liberty County is wet. It’s either wetlands, marshes, creeks, streams, rivers and we have to keep that in mind. If we’re littering our community, it’s ending up in our water,” Swida said.
Then panelists shared why they KLB.
Dave Sapp believes he was born into KLB. Sapp talked about the state of Georgia starting a certification program in the late 80s for landfill operators. Part of the program had communities develop solid waste management plans. Liberty County reached an agreement with Fort Stewart’s recycling program, which got rid of recyclable material, Sapp said.
“As a result of the efforts that were made by community and leadership, Liberty County has been recognized throughout the state as one of the premier solid waste programs,” Sapp said. “I’m proud to say that as a result of the leadership we have at the county level we still have the solid waste program under the Liberty County leadership. We have not privatized and our costs are less than competitors.”
Sapp was also inspired by how much children are involved in KLB. He recalled reading a book about a farmer to students at Taylors Creek Elementary School for Read Across Liberty. Sapp wanted to teach the students the three R’s—Reduce. Reuse. Recycle—but they already knew what it stood for.
“The teachers have been inspirational in developing the attitudes of the children,” he said. “I think Midway Middle School is a prime example of recycling in Liberty County. It’s phenomenal what they do.”
Midway Middle School has won and placed in recycling contests over the years and earned approximately $50,000 since 2012.
John Henderson first met Sara Swida at a Liberty County Board of Commissioners meeting, where she talked about KLB.
“I was very impressed meeting her that night. She was very enthusiastic with all the things she was going to do with the program,” Henderson said. “I didn’t know how she was going to get it done. I found out later that she would get it done with a lot of people I see right here, including me.”
He said Sara and her staff make the clean-up efforts fun.
Willa Lewis’ first encounter with Swida was at a clean-up in Gum Branch with the Young Adult Liberty Leaders. She always heard about Swida and finally had the opportunity to meet her as she brought in lunch for the volunteers. It was Lewis’ job to make sure things stayed organized and set up lunch. She recalled changing around Swida’s set up and Swida switching it back.
“This volleyed back and forth for while,” Lewis said as the audience laughed. “So I chose to take the high road and there was a track there. I let Sara Swida do what she wanted to do and I walked around the track.”
After that event Lewis was asked to join the KLB board, to her surprise, and said she has no regrets.
“Joining KLB has been one of the most rewarding things that I could’ve done,” Lewis said.
Lewis now shares information about pollution and littering with friends and family, and turns her walks for exercise into opportunities to pick up trash along the way.
In 2007 Karen Bell was the president of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society, at Savannah Technical College. They needed to do service projects and chose Relay for Life and Keep America Beautiful. Bell contacted Swida, who spoke with the students, helped with their textbook recycling fair and campus clean-up.
Bell said her favorite part was getting dressed up in different costumes and performing impromptu skits about recycling.
Felix Linzan, KLB program assistant and social media manager, started in high school. While in college, Linzan was an intern at KLB creating monthly newsletters, fliers and maintained the website. He was recognized as Student Volunteer of the Year for Georgia for the Keep Georgia Beautiful foundation.
He earned a scholarship with the foundation, which supported him throughout the years.
Isaac Barnes is the vice president of Kappa Lambda Chi Inc., a military fraternity.
The organization volunteered with KLB and adopted a portion of Highway 196. While picking up trash they decided to do more for the community.
“So we reached out to Ms. Sara. She enlightened us that they did have a board and they would be more than happy to have us as a member,” Barnes said.
Barnes told a story of fraternity members mistaken for prison detail because of their tan clothing while cleaning up and people throwing trash at them. He called it one of the most memorable times they’ve had so far.
After the panelists spoke there was a trivia game on plants and potted native plants were give away as prizes.
The luncheon was hosted by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce at the Performing Arts Center and catered by Farmhouse in Glennville.