Timucuan Parks Foundation is pleased to announce they have been presented with a Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Award at the Jacksonville Environmental Protection awards luncheon held today at the University of North Florida. The nonprofit supporter of our local city, state and national parks and preserves was chosen as the top applicant in the organization category for its creation of a student self-guided cleanup program designed to allow COVID-safe volunteer activities.
The Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Awards recognize individuals, businesses and organizations that showed an outstanding effort in 2020 in the areas of beautification, litter/graffiti prevention, and/or litter cleanup. Keep Jacksonville Beautiful is an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organization.
“The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to look for new ways to continue our mission of preserving, promoting and enhancing our parks and preserves,” said Mark Middlebrook, executive director of TPF. “Our team, which typically leads volunteer projects to maintain trails, clean up litter and, in other ways, enhance our wonderful parks, came up with the idea to offer students the chance to earn community service hours through self-guided volunteer projects. These students really embraced this new program and successfully and safely collected thousands of pounds of trash from our parks.”
TPF designed the contactless self-guided activity to give students a way to earn community service hours for scholarship or graduation requirements while also finding a way to continue the volunteer projects needed to help short-staffed park agencies keep the parks clean. The students chose the local, state or national park and then spent at least 1.5 hours picking up litter around the park. The students were required to document the work with photos that they uploaded to social media or sent directly to TPF along with the self-guided form. In addition to the community service hours, students also had a chance to win Mayday’s Handcrafted Ice Creams gift cards as well as Hydro Flask water bottles.
The self-guided activities started in June of 2020 and continued through the fall, holidays, winter and, spring and summer of 2021. More than 160 students from 35 different schools took part in the program and an estimated 4,000 pounds of trash was collected from 32 different parks. TPF plans to continue the self-guided program. More information can be found at https://www.timucuanparks.org/self-guided/.