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Clean Evansville Initiative Removes Tons of Trash, Sparks Community Pride

By Evansville (IN) Mayor Lloyd Winnecke
August 6, 2012

Sometimes it takes people new to the community to call attention to things that may not always be apparent to those who live and work here on a daily basis. That's what happened last year when a sight selector came to Evansville scouting locations for a new business venture. After visiting a few possible locations the person commented that our city appeared dirty. The perception was that Evansville was not a clean city and lacked a sense of community pride. I asked myself, if that was the case why would a company invest money in a city where from outward appearances no one cared.

As a candidate running for mayor, those comments stuck with me. I pledged if elected, I would take steps to clean-up Evansville one neighborhood at a time. After taking office on January 1, I announced the Clean Evansville Initiative. I asked the community to join me picking up trash for two hours on the first Saturday of each month. On January 7, we held our first clean-up. Temperatures were in the 20s, but that didn't stop 201 people from volunteering to pick up trash along the city's riverfront and throughout the Downtown area. They filled more than 250 bags with over 2,000 pounds of trash and hauled away one couch and six tires.

The first Saturday of February was even colder. Still, 67 volunteers came out and collected 82 bags of trash. As the weather began to warm up the following months, the number of volunteers picked up. In March, we had 173 volunteers, followed by 250 each in April and May. Our monthly efforts have included civic leaders and elected officials, individuals and families, business owners, scouting groups and clubs. We targeted neighborhoods all over the community, from the inner city to suburban shopping areas.

Since January, more than 1,140 volunteers have participated in Clean Evansville picking up over 13,600 pounds of trash. That's 6.8 tons of trash that is on longer on our city streets! And we have expanded Clean Evansville to the business community asking companies to “Take the Clean Evansville Pledge” to keep their properties and the street in front of their business litter-free. So far, more than a dozen companies have taken the pledge. We developed a window cling decal that businesses can display. The decals are a way for companies to show their support for the Clean Evansville Initiative and for the city to show our gratitude to them for taking the pledge.

What makes this program truly special and unique is that it is a mostly volunteer effort. There is no budget. And while my office spearheads the project, most of the work is done by volunteers. Keep Evansville Beautiful coordinates the Clean Teams, assigning volunteers to areas and distributing supplies. Allied Waste provides staff and trucks to pick-up trash bags and hauls them to the landfill without charge, Rural King donates supplies, and WFIE-TV (the local NBC affiliate) produces public service announcements. Corporate leaders such as Accuride, Vectren and Fifth Third Bank routinely promote the program by encouraging their employees to get involved.

Best of all, our efforts are paying off. An event promoter in town recently to tour our city's new multI'million dollar Ford Center arena noted the cleanliness of our Downtown. And people are starting to take the initiative on their own to keep the city clean. The parent of an elementary school student told me her child's teacher had assigned each student in class to pick-up three pieces of litter. As mayor of Evansville, I am proud to report that our city is much cleaner today, and our civic pride is growing and showing.