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A view of Richland Avenue leading up to the city of Athens, April 15, 2024.

Athens Beautification Month fosters community engagement

With April comes Athens Beautification Month: 30 days of volunteer opportunities aimed at embracing, celebrating and protecting the place Bobcats call home.

Athens Beautification Month is a collaboration between the City of Athens, Ohio University’s Center for Community Engagement, the Office of Sustainability and community partners.  

Courtney Lefebvre, the associate director of the Center for Community Engagement, said Athens Beautification Month allows volunteers to focus on environmentalism and sustainability within the community. 

“Athens is all of our home and demonstrating that we all really care about it and are committed to making it the best place that it can be … I think that’s really key,” Lefebvre said. 

Athens Beautification Month is an opportunity for connection across campus and the community through crucial service work. 

“I think Athens Beautification events provide an opportunity for students to get a sense of what the community priorities are in a region that's driven by what the organizations are already doing, and building on the asset that we have locally,” Lefebvre said. 

Community partners create volunteer opportunities that are open to anyone within the Athens community. Events include a garden work party hosted by Community Food Initiatives, an Adopt-A-Highway litter cleanup hosted by the Athens Lions Club, a trail celebration hosted by the Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia and a play space spring cleanup hosted by the Athens Herb Guild.

Tenderfoot Learning Lab is an organization dedicated to educating people on how to live sustainably. Saturday, April 27, Tenderfoot will host a volunteer day and lunch as a part of Athens Beautification Month events. 

Lindsey Rudibaugh, executive director and co-founder of Tenderfoot, said volunteers will build, plant and weed gardens while participating in other sustainably-focused events.

A locally sourced lunch will be prepared for volunteers at noon, then they will begin working on various projects at 1 p.m.

“Volunteers aren't here for very long so we use that meal to demonstrate our mission and how food can be more sustainable,” Rudibaugh said.

Rudibaugh believes that one of the most satisfying aspects of volunteer work is creating a visible difference. She said volunteers who join Tenderfoot Learning Lab are sure to make a visible, lasting difference. 

The United Campus Ministry Center, or UCM, is an organization dedicated to spiritual growth and social justice. In honor of Athens Beautification Month, UCM hosted an emergency volunteer flood clean-up in Marietta on Saturday, April 13, and is set to host a home improvement day on Saturday, April 20.

Mickey Hart, the executive director of the UCM Center, said the home improvement day will focus on improving the UCM Center building at 18 N. College St. 

“Our plan is to really redo our front yard to create just a better curb appeal overall, but also to make the building more inviting,” Hart said.

As a small nonprofit, Hart said the organization does not have the means to dedicate large amounts of time to improving the appearance of the location. Athens Beautification Month gives the UCM Center an opportunity to gain a helping hand with the process. 

The Sierra Student Coalition is an organization that seeks to explore, enjoy and protect the planet. As part of Athens Beautification Month, the coalition hosted a litter cleanup on Saturday, April 13.

Catherine Galla, a junior studying environmental studies and a co-president of the Sierra Coalition, said the event was in partnership with The event took place from 9-11 a.m., and 10 other universities across the country participated in a litter pickup the same day at the same time. 

“We're taking part of a bigger scale of collective action, which is really unique,” Galla said. “I've never done something like that before.”

The litter collected by volunteers on Saturday will be used to create an art piece. The Sierra Student Coalition will display its work at the Earth Day Parade and the Earth Day Celebration on Monday, April 22.

Volunteers can join the remaining Athens Beautification Month volunteer efforts by going to the event GivePulse page to learn more. 

“There's so many different ways to get involved,” Rudibaugh said. “Having a strong community takes all of us and so I just love this way to get engaged (and) make everyone's involvement really visible.” 


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