The Pied Piper of Community Cleanup

Networking Leaves Powers Scrap-Happy
Celia Claybourn’s powers of Concentration are beginning to pay big dividends. Celia, director of the Powers Community Learning Partnership, says her job is like playing the old parlor game, Concentration. “So often it happens, ‘We have a need…there’s a resource’ and the light bulbs go on and suddenly…there’s a match!” Celia made a powerful match at the Regards to Rural II conference in March 2004. Upon seeing a tabletop display about the Lakeview, Oregon, scrap metal roundup that netted over 651 tons of abandoned metal, that proverbial light bulb clicked on. For several years prior, Powers residents had expressed interest in removing aging vehicles and unsightly appliances from the local landscape. But grant proposals to fund such an effort were unsuccessful. At Regards to Rural II, Celia introduced herself to Jim Cleland, a Lakeview community volunteer who, like Celia, graduated from the Ford Community Leadership Program. They chatted, and soon had made arrangements for Jim to travel to Powers, Oregon, to conduct a workshop on organizing a scrap metal cleanup. Two weeks later, Jim was in Powers, providing practical advice to a group of seventeen eager community volunteers. 

“It was so valuable to talk to someone who’d lived through the process,” says Celia. “Jim’s insights inspired us to move from discussion to action.” And so, less than two months after the fortuitous Regards to Rural II meeting, Powers held the scrap metal roundup, part of a larger community-wide Spring Clean ’04 campaign. The event was cosponsored by the Powers Action Team, Powers Lioness and Lions Clubs, and the Powers Community Learning Partnership. The intergenerational effort involved high-school students earning money for school organizations by picking up appliances, and local heavy equipment operators who helped senior citizens and others with physical limitations get their junked vehicles to the roundup. Spring Clean ’04 also included elementary school students painting and replanting downtown flower boxes, high-school students picking up litter, and high-school seniors landscaping their school grounds and rebuilding the porch of the Pioneer House, the oldest building in Coos County. The fire department even sponsored a fire hydrant painting competition for youth. Celia notes that it was especially gratifying to conduct the cleanup using volunteer help and donations instead of outside funding. “Between the four organizations and the school, we anticipated more than 100 hands-on volunteers…because of generosity of members of the FCLP Lakeview class sharing their enthusiasm, knowledge, and forms, Jim’s willingness to drive fourteen hours in one day to share with us, a handful of volunteers here willing to walk their talk, and many people joining in,” she says. “This is definitely the result of making a match at Regards to Rural II and putting our leadership training to work.”

Cleanup Unites Prairie City
Jim Cleland became Oregon’s Pied Piper of community cleanups. From his early role in the Lakeview community team that spearheaded its scrap metal roundup, to consulting with Celia Claybourn of Powers on prospects for a similar effort in her community, his volunteer efforts helped effect the removal of over 1200 tons of unsightly scrap metal from these towns. Good news travels fast, and soon Prairie City wanted in on the action.

Participants in the Horizons Program in Prairie City had organized Neighbor Helping Neighbor: Clean up Grant County, inspired by these regional efforts. This wildly successful campaign involved three days of collecting scrap metal over the summer of 2004. Again, Jim traveled to advise Prairie City community leaders and returned to help with the first day of collection. Kathy Smith, a Horizons Program participant in Prairie City, noted how her group collaborated with the Greater Prairie City Community Association to organize the cleanup. As a result, ties between the two groups were strengthened for long-term community benefit. Volunteers of all ages participated in the cleanup, including members of Future Farmers of America, church groups, and individuals. Prairie Wood Products donated the use of heavy equipment to help move the collected materials. The effort even received more than $400 in unsolicited contributions from grateful residents. Kathy Smith also attended Regards to Rural III and returned home inspired and eager to put what she learned to good use. She plans on continuing to follow the suggestion of conference speaker David Beurle to “use any old excuse to get the community together.” She encouraged a celebration barbeque for cleanup volunteers, possibly coinciding with the metal crusher coming to town. “This has been a very exciting project,” Kathy concludes. “It’s helped us test the waters and see what’s possible with our new leadership skills. Now, we plan to build on this success.”

Photograph courtesy of Karin, On the Way from Oregon to Idaho on Road 26, August 13, 2006, Creative Commons license.

Story by Beth Gilden.