Education a Key to Clean Environment, says KACB Director

Posted by Trish Riley, October 22, 2010

By Dylan Klempner

Director of Keep Alachua County Beautiful (KACB), Mickie McKenzie says her organization is about much more than “planting petunias.”  We can plant all the flowers we want, “but if we don’t have communities that are clean and healthy and safe, we don’t have beautiful communities.”

On October 6, 2010, McKenzie spoke to community members at Gainesville’s monthly Green Drinks meeting about what her group is doing to bring together citizens, businesses, and governments to preserve and protect our environment.

KACB is an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, Inc., the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organization.  Their mission, said McKenzie, is to educate people to take responsibility for their own environment.

One of her group’s primary initiatives has been to help citizens of Gainesville properly dispose of their waste.  When she started as executive director at KACB five years ago, McKenzie says she helped organize16 to 18 major clean-ups in the city each year.  The projects included approximately 50 local volunteers and members of student groups in collaboration with The City of Gainesville’s solid waste division.

The clean-ups, though successful, involved great expense.  So, McKenzie focused her attention on education.  She helped neighborhood leaders understand that they could empower people in their communities by providing them with instructions for how to clean up their own yards.  As a result of those initiatives, KACB now performs just 4 minor clean-ups per year, she said.

In addition to their work to keep the streets of Gainesville free of waste, KACB and its volunteers serve the community in a number of important ways.  Not long ago, they planted a garden at a local boys and girls club, for which they won first prize with their parent organization.

They also gather and care for plant material donated to them from nurseries, which is then delivered to neighborhoods, schools and nonprofits at KACB’s expense.  This year—between March 1, 2010 and May 31, 2010—the group handed out a total of 350 trees, shrubs and plants.

Community members interested in taking part in KACB’s next series of projects are encouraged to attend the following October events:

On Thursday, October 28, 2010 KACB will host Operation Medicine Cabinet at Gainesville’s downtown plaza.  The event starts at 5pm and will include a candle lighting ceremony at 6:00pm sponsored by Narcotics Overdose Prevention Education (NOPE) to honor of those who have lost their lives to substance abuse.

McKenzie said that she started Operation Medicine Cabinet last year in response to her concern about improper use and disposal of medication drugs.  She has concerns about “medication being flushed into our water ways,” she said.  At last year’s event KACB partnered with NOPE, Partnership In Prevention of Substance Abuse (PIPSA), CDS (formerly know as Corner Drug Store), Alachua County Environmental Protection, The Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, The City of Gainesville, Alachua County Waste Alternatives, and UF School of Pharmacy.  Together they collected and appropriately disposed of 16 pounds of medication drugs.

Two days after Operation Medicine Cabinet, on Saturday, October 30, 2010, KACB presents the Gardens Of Gainesville tour.  It starts at 9:00 a.m. and includes a noon reception at the Matheson House Gardens at Sweetwater Branch Park.  The garden tour is self-directed and features four private gardens.  Maps will be provided to participants who may start at any point they choose and follow their own route.  Tickets are $20.00 and included a year’s membership in KACB and the gift of a fabric shopping bag made of recycled materials

For more information, contact McKenzie by phone or email:  352.371.9444, 352.219.6573 or mickie.kacb@gmail.com.