Amy Wells is the Executive Director of Keep Lewisville Beautiful. On this blog, she shares her experience with utilizing a Green Bag Grant to adapt to new changes during a pandemic.
In the midst of COVID restrictions, Keep Lewisville Beautiful (KLB) wanted to give back to our community and support volunteers, but with event restrictions and COVID-19 guidelines, we were at a loss of what we could do. Special events were canceled, planting projects put on hold, and in-person classes postponed.
We knew that we wanted to continue to provide volunteer opportunities to keep volunteers engaged, but we also wanted to provide meaningful programming that supported getting people outside, staying active, and creating community connections in a safe way. KLB staff had to get creative.
Just before the shutdown, KLB was awarded an H-E-B Central Market Green Bag Grant to purchase supplies for cleanup programs such as Adopt-A-Spot. We had already started to purchase grabbers and vests for our cleanup programs, and then everything got put on hold. So, we adapted.
KLB decided to bring the event to the volunteer by creating cleanup kits for the community to borrow from KLB. We used our grant to purchase the supplies that we originally had planned for, and then added buckets and hand sanitizer to create a kit that we could easily disinfect, transport, and store.
Our cleanup kits include everything a family, individual, or small group needs to host their own "special event." We include grabbers (based on group size), gloves, safety vests, trash bags, and a small bottle of hand sanitizer, all placed in a handy 5-gallon bucket that makes curbside pick up a breeze. In addition to these supplies, KLB also includes safety tips for cleaning during COVID-19 with recommendations and guidelines for a safe cleanup. Through a generous donor, PPE was donated to local non-profits in our county, so we are also including disposable masks if volunteers need them.
Renting a kit is easy. Volunteers fill out an application to borrow supplies and submit a general release form. Once it has been approved, KLB schedules curbside pick up of the kits by appointment only, so that we can stagger volunteers and follow social distancing guidelines. Volunteers are able to pick their own time, date, and location of their cleanup event, but KLB can also help with area suggestions. Once the volunteer completes their cleanup, the kits are returned within 7 days by scheduling an appointment with the KLB staff. The staff then disinfects the supplies and cleans the kit for the next volunteer to use.
These kits have been popular in our community and an easy program for staff to manage. We did have to create a new cleaning procedure and train staff on how to handle and disinfect items so that we can make sure that both staff and volunteers are safe. Supplies are left to sit in the sun, and then brought inside to a cleaning station with CDC approved disinfectants. Once cleaned, they are left in another area to dry before being put back into rotation for use. We are temporarily providing vinyl gloves and limiting trash bags by providing them per person, instead of an entire box that has to be returned. We only ask for the grabbers, vest, and bucket back to limit surface exposure. Bags and gloves are prepped ahead of time, to make counting easier. We have found that pairing the gloves ahead of time and grouping the trash bags in sets of 5 works best for our needs. We are currently following KTB guidance on group allowances, and are encouraging volunteers to mask up, back up, and cleanup.
The most significant result of our project is that we have been able to get enough supplies from our H-E-B Central Market Green Bag Grant to create 50+ kits that can be loaned out to our community. These kits are versatile for group needs, and they are sustainable in that they will be able to be used over and over for future cleanups. The buckets make curbside pick up a breeze since they are flat and are easy to carry or stack. We even made them fun by decorating the buckets with Keep Texas Beautiful, Don't Mess With Texas, and Keep Lewisville Beautiful stickers!
Another benefit to these kits is that they are adaptable. With event restrictions on our community, we are unable to host our normal city-wide cleanup event for Fall Sweep, but we are able to utilize these kits to create a "cleanup challenge" in our community between September 11 and November 14, 2020. We are excited to use these kits to engage our community, get volunteers active this Fall, and be able to provide a safe and fun volunteer experience that complies with community COVID restrictions.
Together, and with these cleanup kits, we are able to make a difference in our community even if we are apart. We can't thank H-E-B Central Market and Keep Texas Beautiful enough for this grant opportunity.
The 2020 Green Bag Grant program is currently open and accepting applications through October 30. You must be a KTB affiliate in good standing to apply. The KTB Fall Sweep cleanup program is also open to affiliates! Volunteers can check out our event calendar and get involved in a cleanup event near you.
Blog post written by Amy Wells, Executive Director of Keep Lewisville Beautiful