Well-meaning citizens can feel overwhelmed and isolated when confronting the problems they see in their community. Thanks to the hard work of Nebraska City volunteers, however, folks won't feel that when they confront the issues of litter reduction and community beautification.
The Keep Nebraska City Beautiful (KNCB) group, now an official affiliate of Keep America Beautiful (KAB) and Keep Nebraska Beautiful (KNB), will give citizens a sense of belonging to a network of Citians determined to make a difference.
The effort kicked into gear in August of 2017 when concerned citizen Patty Coates brought up the idea of Nebraska City launching a chapter of Keep America Beautiful.
Grayson Path, city administrator for Nebraska City, said he was encouraged by Coates’ initiative and the community response to her idea as folks got to work in cooperative fashion to make the chapter a reality.
“As a city administrator, I love that,” Path said. “I love when people step up in their community and take action. When I saw that, I was behind it. And I wanted to help support it as much as I could.”
Path said the city is well equipped to solve many issues that rise in the community, but that sometimes it is necessary for the community itself to activate in order to see the positive change that everyone wants. Path indicated that litter reduction and beautification are efforts in which citizen involvement is both needed and appreciated.
Just raising the issue and generating momentum wasn’t enough to get KNCB going, however. It took organization. It took volunteers and donors of both time and treasure.
And it all happened.
Mayor Bryan Bequette said he wasn’t surprised. Throughout his time as the leader of Nebraska City’s government, Bequette said he has always seen Citians stepping up to confront challenges. And, when the issue of litter was raised, folks joined the effort and worked hard.
Path noted that this was never seen as a one-person project.
“Everyone had a role to play and everyone filled their role,” said Path. “I really liked seeing everyone getting involved and making this happen.”
Patty Coates, president of the KNCB Board, spelled out the wide-ranging effort that took the KNCB idea from that initial council meeting to realization with affiliation into KAB.
“Before becoming an affiliate, we had a lot of things we had to accomplish,” said Coates.
Volunteers broke up into teams to address items on a check list that was required to become an affiliate.
The organizational team of Path, Sally DuBois and Christi Smallfoot, worked to enable legislation, write by laws and articles of incorporation, come up with a mission statement, apply and receive approval for 501(c)3 tax exemption status and apply and receive approval for a grant from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. The group also came up with job descriptions for board members and came up with a logo for the KNCB.
An office site was established as well, that being office space at the city building at 1902 4th Corso.
The Community Appearance Index and Focus Area Survey team continued the work by identifying relevant resources in government agencies and businesses which could assist with the goals of litter prevention, beautification, community greening, waste reduction and recycling.
Interviews and surveys were conducted asking questions to community members in regard to litter reduction, recycling and beautification. After gathering the information, observations were made and recommendations for a direction were established.
Members of the Community Appearance Index and Focus Area Survey team were Pat Friedli, Sue Little and Vic Johns.
The Litter Index team created a full picture of the litter situation in Nebraska City by making maps and evaluating each area of the city to see what needed to be done. Members of that team were Coates, Doug Friedli, Debra Bennett, Kelly Bequette and Rob Elson.
All of the work by people on the teams put the KNBC in position to create goals and a vision for what could be accomplished in the future.
It all starts with the organization’s mission statement, which reads: A community based program formed to inspire residents to take action to improve and beautify our city.
Efforts to organize the group were greatly enhanced by the city’s contribution of space and assets that made it possible to do things like apply for a 501(c)3 and apply for grant funds.
Those grant funds were essential to the hiring of an administrator in Brittany Szydelko.
“Brittany is doing a great job,” said Coates. “We have piled a lot on her and she is tackling it. She is a good asset to our team.”
Without an administrator, the KNCB idea would be difficult, if not impossible, to actualize.
In addition to talking about the contributions of Szydelko, Coates introduced the members of the KNCB board. They are Katie Meredith, guidance counselor at Nebraska City Public Schools; Laurie Langdon, CPA at the Ambassador Wellness Center and treasurer of the board; Rob Elson, shift supervisor at OPPD and vice president of the board; Debbie Bennett, realtor for NP Dodge; Sue Little, retired school teacher and secretary of the board; Vic Johns, realtor with Century 21; Sally DuBois, retired events coordinator as well as public relations person and speech coach at Lourdes; Christy Smallfoot, county assessor; and Coates, who works as a turbine technician OPPD.
Jane Polson, president of KNB was on hand at the affiliation celebration on June 30 to present a certificate honoring the KNCB as the 22nd affiliate in the state of Nebraska. Polson expressed her appreciation and admiration for the Nebraska City efforts resulting in affiliation.
“I am so excited to have you join our affiliate network,” said Polson.
After introducing Nebraska City as part of KNB and KAB, Polson went on to give a brief history of the nationwide organization and its origins.
Polson said the organization came into being in 1950 when people noted the litter along the newly constructed interstate highway system. The organization has battled litter and targeted community betterment since then and added an affiliate system in the 1970s.
Education and diversion are two key issues for KAB going forward as efforts are made to change behavior so that people don’t litter and to educate folks to recycle items that are indeed recyclable. The educational effort reaches down into schools as well so that students learn about the value of being clean and green.
Beautification and planting initiatives are also favored with an intent to plant native to the area in respect and consideration of pollinators and other factors.
The KNCB group has already done great work and looks forward to doing more. In three events, over 200 community members have given over 300 hours of volunteer work to collect 230 trash bags and some 2,200 pounds of litter and debris.
Coates said the group looks forward to doing more.
“You may not have seen us a whole lot yet, but you are going to see us a whole lot in the future,” said Coates. “We are here to stay.”
The process of affiliation has affirmed the organization and set it up for the future.
“We are something tangible now and I am passionate about it,” said Coates.
Polson said the affiliation is more than just a certificate, noting that as a member in good standing, Nebraska City will be eligible for grants to do more and bigger projects.
Plans for the future include working to hold litter free events in AppleJack, Arbor Day and more, and also to educate the public about the illegality of littering and also on litter reduction.
Mayor Bequette said he appreciates what KNCB is trying to do and said there is a definite correlation for the reduction of litter and the prosperity of the community.
“A community that takes care of itself reduces crime and creates economic opportunity,” said Bequette. “It’s not just picking up the litter. It does so much for our town.
“I am looking forward to everything that KNCB is going to do,” said Bequette.