Keep SPI Beautiful seeks volunteers

Special to the PRESS

The Keep SPI Beautiful Committee (KSPIB) met Thursday afternoon for their regular monthly meeting. The meeting was a bountiful one with the formation of three subcommittees including one regarding volunteer outreach and organization, another for the Butterfly Garden project, and finally, one to discuss the creation of a budget for KSPIB.

Environmental Health Director Victor Baldovinos came to the committee with the results of the 2015 Governor’s Community Achievement Award (GCAA). According to the Keep Texas Beautiful website, the competition distributes $2 million in funding from TxDOT across 10 communities with the best grassroots environmental programs, with the amount based on population size. In January, KSPIB members and City staff met for a workshop just a few days before the deadline and hustled to put finishing touches on the application. This year, they received third place in their category and a trophy to be displayed at City Hall. Baldovinos had the opportunity to read the winning application, and while congratulating the first place team for their success, was more prepared for next year’s application and the chance to win the first prize of $90,000 to be used for landscaping projects along the local right-of-way. Neighboring Harlingen was awarded first prize in their population category and $250,000.

Coming up for KSPIB is the continuation of recurring events such as aiding in education about the City’s weekly recycling efforts in addition to participation in the Anti-Litter Beach Program, aptly named, Treasure it. Don’t Trash it. According to Baldovinos, the program has been very successful with fewer littering citations for the year as well as documentation to show how clean the beach has been this summer. With so much in the works, the small committee has a hard time being at every event and began to discuss organizing volunteers to help with the programs. Baldovinos said, “You can only do so much, but you can serve as the leader. Everyone knows someone. You’d be surprised how many people actually need volunteer hours or they just want to give back to their community.” Dalton recommended the creation of a subcommittee to discuss outreach and organization of volunteers saying, “We can’t fix it today, but we can fix it for the future.”

The committee began to discuss a recent donation from the SPI Parks, Recreation, and Beautification Committee in the amount of $1,400 to put towards the KSPIB-run Butterfly Garden. This donation has brought up budgetary issues in regards to a lack of maintenance funds for City parks as well as the lack of budget for KSPIB. The KSPIB committee has been working solely off of volunteer hours and donated materials, but according to Dalton, the City Council recently approached her with the task of creating the first budget for the committee. Although volunteers and donations are extremely important to the community, Dalton noted that the committee is beginning to focus on education, specifically for children across the Valley, and pointed out that money is an important factor. The committee formed one subcommittee to focus on the Butterfly Garden and another to address the development of their first budget.

In addition, the committee met with four members, just enough to make quorum. Member Michael Quist was in attendance for his last meeting, and two new members were appointed by the City Council on Wednesday evening.

On July 25, KSPIB will be participating in the All-Island Cleanup followed by the Mid-Year Anti-Litter Beach Celebration. The celebration will include a sandcastle contest and volunteers from Origins, KSPIB, Surfrider Foundation, UTRGV and more will be invited. Baldovinos said, “We’re really working towards one common goal and that’s obviously to take care of our beach.” The next meeting for the committee is scheduled for August 25.

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