Litter CritterEvery year since 2007 residents of Social Circle meet to clean up our City on the Saturday before Easter Saturday and on the Saturday before our annual Friendship Festival.  Over the years we’ve had great support from Social Circle churches, businesses, civic groups, school and youth groups, neighborhood associations, and many others who continue to make this a successful event.

The kick-off for our fall 2017 city-wide cleanup will be held on Saturday, September 30, 2017 at 8:00 a.m. in the Community Room in the Social Circle Public Safety Building.  This will be the 22nd regular cleanup event.

Everyone is invited.  Wear your work clothes.  Biscuits and coffee will be provided. This is a great opportunity  to meet and greet your friends and  neighbors before setting out to beautify our city.

History

The Social Circle Clean City Committee (SCCC) was formed in 2007 for the purpose of addressing the City’s persistent problems of litter, abandoned automobiles, and unkempt properties which have had a detrimental impact on the image of our City.  The SCCC Committee’s was formed at the initiation of Social Circle resident Madeline Burgess, the wife of then-Mayor Jim Burges who had frequently heard from residents complaining about litter and who wanted the city to “DO SOMETHING” about it.  In addition to Ms. Burgess, the “charter” members of the Committee included Bettye Ray, Superintendent of Social Circle City Schools, Jamie Peterson, former Manager of the City’s Better Hometown Program, Doug White, Social Circle City Manager, code enforcement officer Lt. Dennis Aderholt, landscape architect Lynn Mills, Social Circle residents Ginny Metcalf and Nancy Posner, and Elaine Oakes, Executive Director of Keep Walton Beautiful.  A number of other committed volunteers have joined the Committee since its inception.

Previous cleanup events conducted annually by the City resulted in very limited attendance and participation; litter and trash reappeared almost immediately afterward, discouraging the most dedicated cleanup volunteers.  Realizing that with limited personnel and resources the City could not singlehandedly cure chronic littering behavior, the SCCC Committee set forth the following goals:

  • Identify strategies for addressing litter
  • Identify and enlist support of school, civic and other organizations and key individuals in addressing litter in our community
  • Plan and schedule regular clean-up events
  • Create an public awareness of litter problems
  • Help to educate residents of Social Circle on the City’s trash pick-up policies and schedules
  • Disseminate information on the City’s litter, illegal dumping and unsightly and/or dwelling ordinance
  • Develop a litter prevention and clean community plan

One of the SCCC Committee’s first activities was to launch an “Adopt a Street” program, in which businesses, churches, neighborhood and civic associations, school and youth groups and other interested citizens were asked to adopt a street – a limited stretch of roadway, areas around public buildings and parks, etc. – in other words, a reasonably small area which could be cleaned up in less than two hours.  Holding cleanup events three or four times a year was initially discussed; however, in view of the work required for planning, promoting and coordinating these events, the group settled on a semi-annual schedule.

Execution of Program

  • Committee members identified approximately 38 potential cleanup partners and sent them hand addressed letters inviting their participation and support. The businesses, churches, groups, etc. were asked to adopt a designated area for cleanup at scheduled events and throughout the year to the extent possible.
  • Concentrating on our major, most visible corridors, City Manager Doug White identified manageable segments to be assigned to our “adopting” partners. Youth groups were assigned to the safest areas away from traffic.
  • Announcements about pending cleanup events are made directly to adopting partners, previously by mail and now by email. Notices and other information about the events are also provided in our monthly “Around the Well” newsletter that goes out with utility bills and on our BHT website. Members of the Clean City also make personal reminder calls to cleanup participants a few days before pending events.
  • The “Adopt a Street” cleanup events are scheduled twice annually, in the spring, usually a week before Easter, and in the fall prior to our annual Friendship Festival in October. The kickoff events are held early on a designated Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m. in the Community Room of the former City Hall (now our Public Safety Building). Participants are provided sausage biscuits and coffee to consume while being entertained by local talent  and are then equipped with bags, gloves, vests, and litter grabbers (on loan as needed) before setting off to perform their assigned jobs.  Loaded trash bags are placed on street corners to be collected by the Public Works Department on the following Monday.
  • Our first regular cleanup event was held on October 13, 2007. Subsequent cleanup events were held in the spring and fall of years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, for a total of 13 cleanup events since the program began.
  • Our Committee has greatly benefited from the guidance and assistance of Elaine Oakes, Keep Walton Beautiful Executive Director, who also provides trash bags, gloves, hand sensitizer (whens available) and the loan of litter grabbers for our events.

Other activities include:

  • The Committee conducted a litter survey in 2007 in cooperation with Walton Clean and Beautiful as part of a state-wide initiative to develop a long term, sustainable litter abatement and prevention strategy for reducing litter through increasing public awareness, personal responsibility and community involvement.
  • In 2008 the Committee worked with the City, Walton County Sign Shop and Walton Clean and Beautiful Director Elaine Oakes to design, build and install a set of “Burma Shave” type road signs on our major east west corridors leading to the City. Each set of 4 signs read: (1) Our businesses – Our churches; (2) Our Civic Groups – Our Schools; (3) And U – Help Make – Social Circle; (4) Georgia’s-Cleanest-Little Town!
  • In 2011, the Committee sponsored a Litter Critter Art competition open to middle and high school students – grades 6 through 12. The completion objective was to create an imaginary “Litter Critter” for use as a logo in promoting citywide cleanup events and to serve as a mascot at school and community events to encourage litter consciousness in the Social Circle community. First place winner in the competition was 11th grade student, Brent McCarty.  Based on his design (see attached photo), a “Litter Critter” costume was created by our local couturier, Patsy Eggers,  and former teacher, Rosemarie Sells.  “Trashee” – the critter mascot -now appears at cleanup and other community events.

Budget and Community Involvement

  • Positive responses were received from most of the initial 38 invitees in 2007. Twelve attended the first scheduled cleanup event in October and another eight organizations indicated they would pick up their areas on their personal time.
  • Since 2007, the roster of cleanup partners has increased to over 60 active groups. All new businesses have been asked to join as new partners, for example we added five new businesses and two youth groups as partners during the current year. The entire wrestling team of 15 players has just been added.   A list of our partners is attached as a supplemental item to this application.  We have asked all participants to agree to maintain their street section or area clear of litter and trash throughout the year.
  • The funding of our “Adopt a Street” program has been minimal. We depend mostly on private donations (food and water) and volunteer labor. In the first few years of the program, Committee members mailed introductory letters, requests for participation, and thank you letters to adopting partners using their own postage.  They also purchased sausage and biscuits to feed participants on cleanup days with their personal funds.  On one occasion, they even baked and assembled the biscuits!  When the “Adopt a Street” program was integrated into Better Hometown, mailings were handled by through that office and finally, in recent years, event notices and thank you messages are conveyed by email.   For a few years BHT paid a high school cafeteria worker to prepare the biscuits at a cost of about $40.  Recently, the local “Church at the Grove” has donated biscuits.  Coffee is supplied and prepared by Ginny and Jim Metcalf, members of our Committee.  Water is donated by our local Freshway Market and most supplies (trash bags, gloves, etc.) are provided by Keep Walton Beautiful.

Prizes for the Litter Critter competition were donated by Committee members and other residents.

Results and Sustainability

  • Due largely to the success of its early efforts, the Clean City Committee was integrated into the overall BHT program and officially designated as a sub-committee of the Better Hometown Design and Preservation Committee. Madeline Burgess, the Committee Coordinator, serves on the Better Hometown (now Main Street) Board of Directors.
  • The first “Adopt a Street” cleanup event was a resounding success with attendance by approximately 100 participants. At the cleanup event in March of 2013, there were over 150 participants and this does not count participation by many businesses whose owners or employees pick up their work areas during weeks prior to or following the kickoff events on Saturday mornings.
  • The volume of trash removed from our streets is very difficult to measure, since many trash bags are placed in private or business containers, in addition those collected by the Public Works Department. However, we have noticed a decrease in the number of bags of trash collected by an increasing number of cleanup participants over the 6 years of the program’s existence as evidence of a reduction in level of litter and trash on our streets.
  • The number of volunteer hours spend in picking up trash is also difficult to measure for the same reason. We recently asked all participants who pick up at times other than on the scheduled Saturday pickup event day to let us know how many hours were spent in clearing their assigned areas and how many people were involved in this work.
  • Based on anecdotal evidence, our streets are much cleaner over extended periods than previously observed and we take pride in having contributed to this successful outcome.
  • The atmosphere at our pick-up events is very festive, with entire families, children and youths, and local group members showing up to socialize, eat biscuits, view a limited program of entertainment and then set off to accomplish their assigned tasks in good spirit. Our entertainment, which has included dance groups, musical groups, the entire high school concert, the high school marching band (see attached photo), cheer leading groups, etc., adds considerably to the festivity of the events.
  • The success of our “Adopt a Street” program reflects the high popularity of our Better Hometown (Main Street) Program. One business owner recently commented that, “If you’re not involved with Better Hometown, you’re nobody!” Better Hometown (Main Street) Manager Mike Miller has considerable organizational skills and a great talent for bring people “under the umbrella” to participate in the City’s many BHT activities.  His enthusiasm and leadership in coordinating our cleanup events has contributed highly to their success.
  • The local press has given us good coverage of citizens removing trash from their streets, making readers aware of how much people value a clean community.
  • Through the “Adopt a Street” program the Social Circle Clean City Committee hopes to achieve and enhance a greater awareness by city residents of how unsightly trash and litter undermines the vitality of their neighborhoods and negatively impacts the City’s economy.