Old Enough to Retire – Too Busy to Do It

We had a bit of a quiet celebration this past Saturday. March 24th was our 65th Birthday. Back in 1953, we were born from a desire to do something about roadside litter. And after 65 years, one would think that it’s time to relax. To rest on one’s laurels. Maybe do a little fishing. Ponder retirement…

But we can’t.

In 1953, a group of businessmen around Culpepper began discussing the scourge of litter gathering along the roadways and byways of Virginia. In the early Spring, they started a campaign to “Keep Virginia Clean” and adopted the slogan “Don’t Be a Litterbug.” National leaders started to take notice, and the first cleanup effort of the “Virginia Anti-Litterbug Council” showed that people actually gave a darn, and what these Virginians were doing was a sustainable model. Keep America Beautiful was founded later that same year, and by 1956 we had officially adopted “Keep Virginia Beautiful” as our moniker. While many equate our mission (and that of Keep America Beautiful) with the famed commercial of the “crying Indian,” Iron Eyes Cody wasn’t the only celebrity to join the cause. First Lady Lady Bird Johnson championed beautification as her pet cause, and in 1967 Lassie joined her as the mascot of a nation-wide anti-littering campaign.

Amine Kellam and Paul Sanders of KVB with Iron Eyes Cody

Seems like after 65 years we would have made a sizable dent in our litter problem, no?

In 1953, around 3.5 million people called Virginia home. As of last year, our numbers had swelled to almost 8.5 million. That’s a lot more people buying stuff, generating trash, and sadly, creating litter. While our mission has evolved to include recycling, education, beautification, and more, fighting litter is still a core part of what we do. In 1953, our posters said, “Your Personal Example Means Everything!” That’s as true today as it was over six decades ago.

At our recent Shiver in the River, volunteers gathered over a ton of litter and recyclables right here in Richmond. We are once again accepting applications for 30 Grants in Thirty Days, which will provide funds to groups that want to do their part. Since 2011, we’ve given out $178,000 for 230 projects. As a part of this year’s grants, we’re giving out 65 free cleanup kits for folks who want to want to make their own impact in their part of the Commonwealth. Over the last year, we’ve worked with VDOT to become the stewards of the state-wide Adopt-a-Highway program

Which is kind of fitting, isn’t it? After 65 years, we’re still trying to stop roadside littering.

So as the weather warms a bit, we may do a bit of fishing. We’re thinking of a few road trips to the mountains and perhaps the beach. Smith Mountain and Claytor Lakes are looking really good right about now.

But we’re not retiring. We can’t.