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A raindbow reaches over the Convo in Athens on Saturday, April 8, 2023.

Earth Month encourages Athens beautification projects

April is Earth Month – a time to celebrate and protect our planet’s beauty. To commemorate the occasion, Athens residents are rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty. From planting flowers to picking up litter, eight organizations are seeking volunteers to keep our community clean, beautiful and sustainable in the name of Athens Beautification Month. 

America in Bloom is a national organization that works with cities to improve their urban landscapes. The local committee, Athens in Bloom, will host a beautification event on April 18 to prepare flower beds for spring plantings. 

Roxanne Male-Brune, lead coordinator for Athens in Bloom, explained that gardeners and volunteers would prep sites by fluffing mulch and pulling weeds– a simple yet symbolic process for gardeners like herself. 

“It means the beginning of the gardening season, which is amazing,” said Male-Brune. “It means the soil is getting warm enough, and I can put my hands in it again.”

Susie Huser, Director of Outreach for Community Food Initiatives, said CFI would host community garden spring-clean-up events. 

According to CFI’s website, community gardens provide tools, water and seeds to foster local gardening practices. The organization manages five community gardens, serving as a source of locally grown and sustainable produce.

Volunteers will be preparing two of CFI’s community gardens for spring by pulling weeds, moving mulch and compost and tidying up plot edges.

“When we talk about beautification, we’re literally making a beautiful space with the gardens,” said Huser. “But there’s also the beauty that happens when you’re cultivating a space where people can grow and share together.”

Mike Harrington, the secretary of the Athens Ohio Lions Club, a service club organization, explained that on Earth Day, April 22, the club will be holding a litter pickup service project as part of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Adopt-A-Highway program. Harrington said the project would take place along State Route 682.

According to ODOT’s website, Adopt-A-Highway volunteers, like the Lions Club, pick up an average of 25,000 bags of litter each year, saving taxpayers $280,000.

“That’s where we pick up litter, for about a two mile stretch, just to help keep the area nice and clean,” says Harrington.

Volunteers will pick up plastic bottles, napkins and other trash to help beautify Athens and reduce the harmful impact of litter on the community and the environment.

Tenderfoot Learning Lab is a community organization providing sustainability education in Southeast Ohio. On April 16, the organization will be hosting a volunteer day and lunch. Volunteers will be given a locally-sourced, sustainable and homemade meal before planting garden beds, sprucing up campsites and even working to build a new campsite.

The campsites hosted by Tenderfoot create revenue that supports their mission of spreading awareness about sustainability practices in everyday lives and careers. 

“That’s part of sustainability, keeping the outdoors, keeping nature safe for everyone and beautiful for everyone,” said Lindsey Rudibaugh, co-founder of Tenderfoot.

Other organizations hosting events for Athens Beautification Month include the Athens Arbor Day Committee, UCM Center: For Spiritual Growth and Social Justice and the Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia. Specific dates, times, events and volunteer registration can be found on the GivePulse page. 

All these projects and events were created with key causes in mind: placemaking, conservation, environmental education, sustainability, civic engagement and community. These organizations are working together to formulate a greener, cleaner and more beautiful planet, starting with the place they call home: Athens. 

“People think about nature and the outdoors as places of beauty,” said Rudibaugh. “But it actually takes all of us contributing to that to keep it that way.”

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