A Cleaner Tomorrow

The first Saturday of each month has become a day for the community to give back. While Mayor Lloyd Winnecke was running for office last year, he introduced an initiative to improve the image of Evansville.

Before the election, Winnecke received an alarming comment from an out-of-town visitor, stating that the city was “kind of dirty.” Taking the comment to heart, Winnecke made the problem a priority and developed the Clean Evansville Initiative as part of his campaign. The anti-litter proposal encourages Evansville citizens to take pride in the community by picking up trash along streets on all sides of town.

On the first Saturday of January 2012, a week after coming into office, Winnecke launched Clean Evansville in partnership with Keep Evansville Beautiful, leading a crew of volunteers around Downtown’s Main Street to collect litter. The mayor’s idea to include the public makes the solution to the problem a team effort. Since the initial January clean up, more than 985 volunteers have walked the city’s streets collecting a total of 12,489 pounds of trash. On the first Saturday of each month, volunteers meet at 8 a.m. at the designated location ready to work and prepared to get dirty.

Businesses have also become eager to support the initiative. Fifth Third Bank, Vectren, and Accuride Corp. all have teams that volunteer, which has broadened the scope of commitment the community has made to keep Evansville a tidier, more environmentally-friendly home.

An appointed team captain leads each group of volunteers. Winnecke and his wife, Carol McClintock, are regular captains along with the councilperson from the designated cleanup area’s district. Teams are strategically placed throughout the city, picking up litter in the streets for an hour and a half on their assigned route. Fast food bags, plastic bottles, cups, glass bottles, and countless cigarette butts are common items found scattered throughout town, clogging drainpipes and gathering in disgusting piles. Unusual items occasionally make the clean up more interesting, ranging from tires and hubcaps to couches and shopping carts. Around 9:30 a.m., every team starts moving toward the wrap-up location for a ceremonial garbage dumping, followed by Mayor Winnecke’s appreciative words to volunteers.

Keep Evansville Beautiful, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the quality of life and enhancing economic growth for the Evansville area, plays a significant role in the success of Clean Evansville. Along with coordinating volunteers and providing supplies, Keep Evansville Beautiful has shown an endless amount of support by promoting the initiative to beautify our city. Allied Waste is a huge supporter of Clean Evansville, donating time and effort by providing volunteers to round up and transport the 30-gallon trash bags to the landfill. Trucks periodically drive through the cleanup area to relieve volunteers of the heavy bags and replenish them with empty ones. Rural King, another key supporter, donates $100 a month to provide supplies such as trash bags, gloves, and other necessary items.

Following the continued success in the early months of the year, Winnecke implemented phase two of the initiative in March. This phase called upon local businesses to take the Clean Evansville pledge to keep their properties clean, and since, over 20 Evansville area businesses have already set an example. The mayor believes that if companies take ownership of their properties, it will significantly increase economic development efforts. Clean Evansville signage is posted inside the business, showing its commitment to keeping Evansville clean.

Jennifer Mason of Keep Evansville Beautiful says, “If you can’t come out and join us, please take responsibility for your neighborhoods and properties you live on.”

Winnecke is hopeful that Clean Evansville will continue to be a success, and he is looking forward to proudly leading it forward each month. “Clean Evansville has been enthusiastically embraced by the community,” Winnecke says. “I’ve had people comment on what a clean city we have without knowing we even have a clean city initiative.”

If you want to get involved with Keep Evansville Beautiful, call 812-425-4461.

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