KINGMAN – Greens shirts, green message.
Roughly 80 volunteers in fluorescent green safety shirts were scattered around town for the Kingman’s Day of Caring Annual City-Wide Community Clean Up Saturday morning.
Led by Debi Pennington, President and CEO of River Cities United Way, the bi-yearly efforts involve removing litter, weed abatement and even building wheelchair ramps.
There are two community cleanup events a year: one in April and the other in September during the cooler parts of the year and before the event season begins. The Route 66 Fun Run and Mohave County Fair fall into the main event categories.
“We want to make the routes where people come into and through the city look clean and fresh,” said Pennington.
Volunteers are assigned designated areas along Andy Devine Avenue, Airway Avenue and Stockton Hill Road with small offshoots on Hualapai Mountain Road, Route 66 and West Beale Street. Some of the trashiest spots include freeway interchanges, gas stations, truck stops and grocery stores.
The groups and organizations involved Saturday included River Cities United Way, Kingman Mohave Lions Club, Girl Scout Troop 2074, Adopt-a-Block, Mohave Community College Arizona Department of Transportation, Miraculous Microschool, the City of Kingman Clean City Commission and Public Works Department. More groups participate during the April event.
Most of the groups got started on their own in their assigned areas around 8 a.m. Organizers and other volunteers met up at River Cities United Way on Hualapai Mountain Road to distribute water, gloves and garbage bags.
The number of volunteers can range between 300 and 500 people – usually more in April for the ‘Week of Caring’.
“That’s because we have special projects like building wheelchair ramps, assisting volunteers at Dig it Gardens and cleaning city parks,” she said.
The next ‘Week of Caring’ cleanup occurs the third week of April 2023.
There are plenty of moving parts to how it started, who started it, and who keeps it going.
It began as a project for Kingman Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Jamie Taylor in 2014.
“It was her legacy and vision,” said Joni Millin, of C.A.R.E (Citizens Alliance for Revitalization and Economics), aka Sandbox, Beatification Committee and representative of the Kingman Downtown Merchants Association. “The idea was to bring together all community government entities, businesses, non-profits and individuals to ‘Play together in the Sandbox’.”
Eventually, five committees comprised of businesses and government, marketing, events, beautification, and fundraising were brought together to get numerous beautification projects off the ground.
Day of Care was started by C.A.R.E./Sandbox, where Kingman residents came together to partner with United Way for volunteers and the Clean City Commission for support with trash pickup.
A trio of KDMA, Clean City Commission and United Way have, and still run the Day of Care/Week of Care projects.
Whereas KDMA organizes the Veterans Day Parade and Very Merry Street of Lights Christmas Parade, United Way has the lead for Day of Care.
Government agencies get in on it, too.
City of Kingman Public Works Solid Waste Supervisor Ed Tapia and two other teams were in charge of making rounds, picking up and disposing of full bags. In 40 miles of driving along the route, 88 55-pound bags of trash were collected in the three hours of cleanup.
“On average we pick up a couple of hundred bags a year,” Tapia said.
The litter included the usual assortment of cans, bottles, cigarette butts, discarded fast food bags and cups. There are often, if not always, used needles, crack pipes and urine-filled plastic bottles in the mix. when handling trash. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
Pennington said the city has been an integral part and it helps when it comes from the top such as the mayor and Clean City Commission.
Tapia said that in past years, more early publicity and public service announcements attracted more people. Getting businesses involved was part of the plan, especially along Stockton Hill Road.
“We passed out flyers to businesses basically asking them to go out and clean in front of their business,” he said. “Some of them might not be aware of (trash).”
“Some of them are very receptive and some of them were just like, ‘whatever’,” Pennington added. “The idea is getting the momentum going again and getting people involved.”
Since 2019, Pennington has been in charge of the event, tackling logistics, communicating with involved entities, gathering sponsorship opportunities and bringing everyone together.
“Millin explained the background and original intent of cleaning up the city,” she said.
Bigger projects included re-rocking areas and pulling weeds (The Ramblin Rose Motel downtown is one example) but some fell by the wayside.
“When I stepped in, it was learning what all of the projects were,” Pennington said. “Now it’s just reformulating the group and bringing it back together so we can start catching some momentum.”
Donations are a huge part of the process.
Pennington gets contributions from local sources. City of Kingman Public works provides bottled water and True Value donates gloves. Other local civic groups contribute in various ways.
Marcia Joslin, President of Kingman Cares, is involved both with Kingman Cares and United Way
She was inspired to help as a duty as a citizen.
“I think each of us has a responsibility to the community and the people in the community and to show pride in the community we live in,” said Joslin.
Pennington always encourages more participation.
“Many hands make light work,” she said. “United we stand, united we win when the city comes out.”