Students in Kilgore High School’s chapter of Future Hispanic Leaders of America participate in numerous community events throughout the year, and advisor Julie Haufler ensures Make Kilgore Shine is a priority.
The annual clean-up Nov. 4 saw 70-plus volunteers from at least 10 organizations join in Kilgore Improvement & Beautification Association’s annual pre-holiday clean-up.
“It’s a service project that we do every year. It’s kind of a tradition for us now,” Haufler said, with 27 students and three FHLA sponsors taking part that Saturday morning. “I think it’s an opportunity for them to give back to their community. As a leadership group, it’s always really important them to have that opportunity, and they enjoy it.
At the very least, Haufler added, it’s a teaching moment: she hopes her children and her FHLA club members will come to understand picking up trash is important.
“Littering is one of my biggest pet peeves. I don’t like our community or our world to be trashed,” she said. “There seems to be a common idea sometimes that ‘somebody will pick it up.’ I don’t think that’s the best opinion, the best philosophy. I think if we help our younger ones pick up trash they’ll think twice before they litter themselves.”
While the FHLA students attacked litter spread along streets in a loop that began and ended at Kilgore City Park, other volunteers dispersed throughout the community, tackling a year’s worth of detritus on the city’s main thoroughfares as well as in neighborhoods, parks and high traffic areas like downtown.
They collected more than a ton of trash, KIBA President Gene Keenon said, putting the year’s rough estimate cloer to two tons despite a somewhat lower volunteer turnout – organizers set Make Kilgore Shine a week earlier than normal so as not to conflict with Veterans Day.
The revised schedule may have caught some typical helpers off-guard, Keenon allowed, but he’s encouraged by calls from others who say they’ll still put in their annual hours in follow-up trash pick-ups this month. It’s all about cleaning up the community before visitors trek through town during the holiday season.
Keenon keeps track of the numbers as best he can: for example, Higginbotham Road residents BJ and Martha Clark reported 35 pounds of trash collected by three volunteers.
Over the years, Keenon added, less trash has been picked up annually, a figure he’s proud to report.
“It’s reduced by 35 percent from when we first started, which is a good sign,” Republic Services’ manager of municipal and government affairs said. As far as he can tell, “There’s less every year,” a marked decrease in litter on the city’s streets.
“I think people are more aware of it in Kilgore now and maybe think twice before they throw trash out. The city has put up new signs about littering. Also, having the presence of a beautification association and projects throughout the year, I think that does make a difference in Kilgore.”
In addition to the FHLA club and the Clarks, other volunteers on KIBA’s official roster this year included Anthony Saccoccio of Bennie Hall, Boy Scout Troop 251, Kilgore Lions Club, Charles Robinson, the Kilgore High School Hi-Steppers, the KHS Band, Kilgore Middle School Student Council, KHS Anchor Club, NHS Humanities and the Kilgore Intermediate School Student Council.
Keenon’s grateful for each participant and for those who chip in on their own.
For Haufler, “I’m always proud of my students for sacrificing a Saturday morning they could be sleeping in late, to pick up trash around our town. This generation has a strong desire to help others and to make a difference.”