Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa helped kick off the 23rd annual Keep America Beautiful campaign, the largest community project nationwide, which gives many volunteers the opportunity to create a cleaner and greener environment.
The campaign was held at Los Angeles City Hall on Saturday, March 3. The project, which involves more than 15,000 communities across the country, encourages and educates people to recycle and maintain a clean environment to live in. This is the first West Coast launch designed to keep Los Angeles clean. Volunteers donate their time and efforts to sweep the streets, paint over graffiti, and plant trees and flowers.
The Keep America Beautiful campaign started March 2, 2007 and will last until the end of the month.
Volunteer Howard Wong said it is important that Los Angeles citizens know the dangers of litter and pollutants.
“All the trash (?) eventually flows into the waterways, polluting the ocean,” Wong said.
This campaign is about partnerships, said Cynthia M. Ruiz, commission member of the Department of Public Works. Last year’s campaign statistics show there were 203 community-based beautification programs involving 25,919 volunteers who provided a total of 112,867 volunteer hours.
“It takes all of us working together to make L.A. beautiful,” Ruiz said.
There are four different zones spread across the city, from downtown Los Angeles to Hollywood. Each zone plays a different part in keeping Los Angeles clean. Zone one involves the planting of trees in many communities. Villaraigosa’s goal is to plant one million trees throughout the city within the next few years. With support from Tree People, 1,300 trees will be planted through the campaign. Bank of America, another large sponsor, donated $50,000 to the tree campaign.
Zone two’s goal is to erase all of the graffiti littering the walls of the Los Angeles River. According to the progress of last year’s volunteer efforts nationwide, 25.9 million square feet of graffiti at more than 489,000 locations were removed.
Zone three focuses on cleaning the streets of downtown Los Angeles, including the river and Echo Park, while zone four will help make homeless shelters, schools and other community centers clean and green.
“Homeless shelters will see sunshine and flowers,” Villaraigosa said.
Ed Pinero, federal environmental executive, presented a volunteer service award to Andy Lipkis, the president of Tree People who has done a lot of volunteer work to help beautify Los Angeles. He said that cleaning the streets helps take toxins out. Planting trees is “bringing healing into the ground,” Lipkis said. “When you help your neighbor, you’re helping the community.”
Pinero added that recycling and cleaning can improve life and communities, saying, “We are at our best when we lend a helping hand.”
Awards were also handed out to Los Angeles schools that contributed to cleaning the school grounds and recycling.
The event included performances by the All-District High School Honor Band, which played throughout the day. Pizza and water were given to community members and volunteers. The Tree People had a booth that allowed people to take home trees to plant, free of charge. A remote-operated recycling bin educated children on the importance of recycling.