ELDORADO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Keep El Dorado Beautiful plans several community projects


ElDorado Chamber of Commerce issued the following announcement on Jan. 23.

Keep El Dorado Beautiful has begun planning out its year by discussing several projects to broaden its reach into the community, including a continuing effort to become a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

The group held its first meeting of 2019 Monday at Clean Harbors, who has agreed once again to front the cash to incentivize local groups and organizations to help keep the city clean.

Last year, KEB launched its first quarterly cleanup campaign, issuing a call to El Dorado City Council members to coordinate community cleanups in their respective wards — one quarter for each of the city’s four wards.

Ward 3 had launched an annual community cleanup two years prior and was the first ward to participate in the quarterly series in 2018.

Clean Harbors — whose general manager, Dan Roblee, is a member of KEB — fronted cash awards of $300 each to teams of 10 or more who participated in the cleanups.

They included youth athletic teams, church groups, the Union County Master Gardeners and others.

“Clean Harbors will make the donation to KEB and KEB will pay the groups, same as last year,” Roblee said.

501c3

In another effort to clean up El Dorado, KEB is still working to establish itself as a 501c3.

With the designation, the group can take advantage of a program in 35th Judicial District Court, in which defendants who are convicted of or plead guilty to misdemeanor offenses can choose community service to work off fines and court costs.

KEB previously discussed the issue with Judge Jack Barker of 35th Judicial District Court and City Attorney Henry Kinslow, both of whom advised KEB to become a nonprofit in order to take advantage of the court program.

Barker has also said the program, which is handled by the district court administrator, can track the number of hours defendants work to pay off fines and the amount they owe to make sure the hours are properly recorded by the court.

Defendants earn $10 an hour and the amount is credited to the balance of their fines, Barker said.

On Monday, the judge said he is eager to get started, telling KEB members that he had driven along Martin Luther King on the way to work and “there was trash everywhere.”

“Then I drove down Timberlane, and it looked even worse,” Barker said. “I want to try to get with (Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer) to try to get a crew up, hopefully, every workday to clean up the community.”

Smith-Creer took office Jan. 1.

“We talked about that and we wanted to give the mayor the opportunity to get settled in,” Van Hook said.

Barker said there are a limited number of local services that utilize the court program, and those services and the defendants themselves are looking for other alternatives.

“Some places, there are too many people applying, and they don’t have space for them to work. A lot of them are unemployed and they want to work and they can’t come out of pocket,” Barker said.

“We use those couple of services as much as we can and we need another entity,” he added.

With KEB, Barker said he envisions a program in which defendants travel in a van manned and overseen by a city worker while zipping from ward to ward each day clearing the city of litter.

He noted that district court has a waiver of liability for defendants who choose community service.

“We need somebody we can trust and that the city can trust. Right now, I want to get something going for this city,” he said.

KEB member and city Council Member Dianne Hammond said she is continuing to work with another nonprofit to help establish 501c3 status for KEB.

Patrick Frazier, a 2018 city council candidate and founder and director of HOPE (Helping Our People Excel), previously agreed to allow KEB to piggyback off HOPE’s 501c3 certification.

“We are still working on it. By the next meeting, everything should be completed,” Hammond said Monday.

The group briefly discussed the option of filing for its own, separate nonprofit status.

Van Hook said the 501c3 will also allow KEB to become a part of the Union County Violence Intervention Plan, which was launched in 2017 by the SHARE Foundation.

SHARE collaborated with community partners to identify target areas and help reduce violent crime in El Dorado, and as a part of the effort, KEB could become eligible to apply for a grant.

Schools

To further its work will local schools, KEB is organizing a poster contest for Earth Day, April 22.

“If we’re going to do the art project, we need to get going ASAP,” Van Hook said.

After a lengthy discussion, the group settled on awarding cash to winners in each category for students in grades 1 - 6 and agreed to assemble a team of judges who are not affiliated with local schools to pick an overall winner from the winning submissions for each school.

The contest will be open to students in the El Dorado School District and West Side Christian School.

To sweeten the pot, KEB member Janelle Williams suggested that the group host a reception for the overall winner and ask the South Arkansas Arts Center to judge submissions for the overall winner and display the student’s work.

KEB is still finalizing the details of the contest, including the deadline.

Each year, KEB partners with Northwest Elementary school on another Earth Day project called “Plant the Town Purple,” in which low-maintenance, purple plants are distributed to students and faculty members to plant in their yards.

The color was based on El Dorado Wildcats purple.

During KEB’s last regular meeting in November, it was reported that member Jeri Ratcliff, who spearheads the project, was already gathering purple plants and planting them in her greenhouse for Earth Day 2019.

Van Hook said she had spoken with Hammond, who suggested that KEB utilize the city’s digital marquees — one for the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium and the other at South Arkansas Community College — to promote its message and any events, such as Earth Day or community cleanups.

KEB is also working on a project to distribute litter bags to schoolchildren, agreeing to include a new item that was introduced by Hammond: a fact sheet that provides information on the length of time it takes litter to biodegrade.

The sheet was taken from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and listed items that are commonly found on the side of the road.

For instance, a glass bottle takes one million years to disintegrate; a cigarette butt, 10 years; a plastic sandwich bag, 400 years; and a foam cup, undetermined.

Barker advised the group to check on any copyright issues and Hammond suggested that the KEB logo be used on the sheet, which could double as a place mat.

Other KEB projects

include:

• Initiating a Yard of the Month award, with students in the Arkansas Student Leadership Initiative group at El Dorado High School coming up with a design for the signs.

• Putting together a committee to meet with local business and industries to drum up more support for its efforts.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@eldoradonews.com.

Original source can be found here.

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