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The 2024 Beautify Texas Award Winners

Keep Texas Beautiful’s Beautify Texas Awards recognize efforts made by individuals and organizations to enhance their communities and protect the Texas environment. These are the people who work to make their communities cleaner, safer, and more inclusive for residents and visitors.

These awards range in honoring extraordinary volunteers, professionals, youth, educators, businesses, local/civic governments, organizations, and specific projects and programs.  They are organized into two main categories, Individual Awards and Organization Awards. The award winners will be recognized at the Keep Texas Beautiful Conference in June 2024.

Let’s learn about the 2024 Winners:

Individual Awards

Adrian supporting local Pearland business member for winning Entrepreneur of the Year (an environmentally conscious developer) at Chinese Newspaper

Adrian Hernandez supporting local a Pearland business member for winning Entrepreneur of the Year

Stan Weik Leadership
Adrian Hernandez

Keep Pearland Beautiful

Throughout his career, Adrian Hernandez has consistently advocated for environmental responsibility. As Executive Director of the State of Texas Alliance for Recycling, he leads statewide recycling initiatives. In his community, he champions beautification efforts as the CEO of Keep Pearland Beautiful.

He served two terms as a Pearland City Councilmember, directly shaping local environmental policy.  Previously, he chaired the Houston-Galveston Area Council Solid Waste Management Committee, promoting responsible regional waste management practices.  His influence extends nationally – he served as Vice-Chair of the National League of Cities’ Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Federal Advocacy Committee.

His leadership at Keep Pearland Beautiful has resulted in the mobilization of thousands of volunteers who keep the city’s streets, parks, and waterways clean. As the operator of the regional recycling facility, the Stella Roberts Recycling Center, his team’s efforts have diverted over 1 million pounds of recyclables from landfills each year.

His two terms as Pearland City Council member and his chairmanship of the Houston-Galveston Area Council Solid Waste Management Committee provided regional education to cities and counties to start or expand solid waste programs, focusing on source reduction and recycling. He oversaw the creation of local government programs that preserve green space, incentivize environmentally conscious behaviors, and encourage responsible development. 

O.P. Schnabel Volunteer of the Year
Benjamin Amey

Adventures Countering Litter

For Ben Amey, it started with picking up litter occasionally on fishing and kayaking trips. There was simply litter everywhere he took his poles and paddles. Soon, taking plastic out of the water became a big part of each trip. 

In 2023, he founded the nonprofit Adventures Countering Litter. Adventures Countering Litter combines a love of outdoor adventures with a passion for litter removal. Through environmental education, outdoor activities, and community engagement, Adventures Countering Litter organizes anglers, paddlers, hikers, campers, and cyclists to help keep nature beautiful for the next generation. 

Ben Amey using an eight-foot long pipe to collect litter from a river

Ben Amey using an 8 ft grabber he created to reach litter at the edges of waterways.

Ben’s volunteerism with Keep Allen Beautiful, including adopting a section of roadway and attending training events, has facilitated Adventures Countering Litter’s integration into the Allen community. Ben’s leadership inspires others to volunteer, ensuring a cleaner, greener future.

Ms. Drake with students

Ms. Drake with students at Tarver Rendon Elementary School

Sadie Ray Graff Educator of the Year
LaDena Drake

Tarver Rendon Elementary School

LaDena Drake is the agriculture teacher at Mansfield ISD’s Tarver Rendon Elementary School. Ms. Drake works with the most rural and underserved communities within

Mansfield ISD. At the heart of Ms. Drake’s program is an outdoor classroom, where she conducts hands-on lessons that impart the importance of sustainable practices in the garden and animal care skills.

In partnership with Keep Mansfield Beautiful, Ms. Drake helped transform part of the Discovery Park into the Rebecca Sales Pollinator Garden. This garden serves as a living classroom, providing students with hands-on opportunities to explore the wonders of nature and the environment.

Across Mansfield ISD, Ms. Drake helps plan and organize the annual Rockin’ Rodeo, an event that Mansfield ISD hosts for special education students across the district. She invites families to visit the Future Farmers of America barn and gardens to learn how food gets to your table, conserving water, stormwater pollution, and other agriculture topics.

Ms. Drake teaches her elementary students, but her impact reaches the entire Mansfield community. She is helping students become environmental stewards and including families and local stakeholders in her commitment to the environment.

Ruthe Jackson Youth
Daniel Thomas

Young Texan Ambassador, Colleyville, Texas

Daniel Thomas’ conservation journey started as a fifth grader in 2019. As a new Scout looking to gain service hours he volunteered at Keep Grapevine Beautiful. At first, it was replanting and seeding prairie grass and participating in litter cleanups. His research revealed an environmental need for frequent litter cleanups because most of the area’s parks are located next to creeks. 

For the next 5 years, Daniel recruited friends, Scouts, and school groups to volunteer with  Keep Grapevine Beautiful. He coordinated with park directors and expanded cleanups to the nearby cities of Colleyville and Euless.

In 2022, he joined the Keep Grapevine Beautiful Board as a Youth Liaison. As a Youth Liaison, he organized cleanups, recruited volunteers, helped distribute grants, created a video contest, and conducted conservation talks with youth groups. 

Since 2019, Daniel’s efforts have resulted in significant improvements in his community. His efforts have kept 16,000 pounds of trash from area waterways and 4,000 pounds of recyclables from landfills. Additionally, he has provided educational components to 530 youth and reached 34,000 views of educational videos, podcasts, and blogs.

Daniel thomas installs one of 50 beehouses he contructed

Daniel Thomas installs one of the 50 bee houses he constructed for Keep Grapevine Beautiful

Organizational Awards

Georgia Farrow Recreation Center summer campers enjoyed potting seedlings with KIB and Urban Forestry Team

Georgia Farrow Recreation Center summer campers enjoyed potting seedlings with Keep Irving Beautiful and the Urban Forestry Team

Public Education and Outreach

Keep Irving Beautiful

Keep Irving Beautiful has been a Keep Texas Beautiful affiliate since 1992 and serves a city of approximately 257,000 residents and a significant corporate presence. KIB engages individuals and government, businesses and schools, as well as faith, cultural, neighborhood, civic, and youth organizations. 

Some changes originally inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic continued to be incorporated into programming, increasing volunteer opportunities. Keep Irving Beautiful hosts The Don’t Mess with Texas® Trash-Off in April and Trash Bash in the fall.  Since 2020’s Trash Bash, which was all virtual/remote, Keep Irving Beautiful has included a virtual cleanup option. Volunteers conduct self-organized cleanups and post photos to social media with data on the total number of volunteers, hours donated, and the amount of trash and recyclables collected. 

Throughout the year, Keep Irving Beautiful sponsored 23 smaller-scale cleanups. These changes have increased volunteer participation. Keep Irving Beautiful reached a significant youth population by partnering with Parks and Recreation Summer Camp Programs, focusing on tree care and benefits.  Through programs like Adopt-a-Spot, corporate service projects, and tree plantings at park facilities, Keep Irving Beautiful engaged over 8,000 volunteers in 2023.

Outstanding Program
Keep San Angelo Beautiful’s Tires To-Go Program

Keep San Angelo Beautiful’s Tires To-Go program was initiated in 2021 by a challenge and inspiration from San Angelo City Councilman Harry Thomas. Keep San Angelo Beautiful began collecting and recycling tires to minimize the potential for illegal dumping of tires and tires being disposed of in landfills.

Tires pose a threat by releasing chemicals in the air, ground, and water, and alter the ecosystem by releasing methane gas and increasing our carbon footprint. In waterways, they are one of the most common microplastics and destroy fragile marine ecosystems and harm life. Tire debris is the second largest component of litter on our highways and is pervasive across Texas.

As of 2023, the Tires To-Do program has collected over 25,250 tires. In addition to mitigating the harmful effects of improper disposal of tires, the program keeps these tires out of landfills where they pose potential fire hazards and contamination of San Angelo’s water and soil.

The Tires To-Go program also includes outreach and education on the harmful effects and the life cycle of tires, from manufacture to safe disposal, reuse, and recycling. The program engaged 120 volunteers from 15 businesses and organizations, and Keep San Angelo Beautiful’s Youth Advisory Council assisted in distributing education and outreach materials to the community.

volunteers load tires to be recycled at the 2023 Tires To-Go event

Volunteers load tires on to one of 25 tractor-trailers at the 2023 Tires To-Go event

learning about plants at the South Plains College greenhouse

Learning about plants at the South Plains College greenhouse

Sadie Ray Graff Educational Institution

South Plains College

Located in Levelland, Texas, in the heart of West Texas, South Plains College knows the importance of maintaining a beautiful campus for the 9,700 students that call one of its campus locations home.  A community college, South Plains College’s budget is limited, but thanks to a significant donation, they built the Wilburn and Helen Wheeler Science Center in 2022. The new Science Center includes a greenhouse, garden, and outdoor learning area. The new facilities allow South Plains College to provide students with first-class education on maintaining a healthy and beautiful environment. 

Using the outdoor learning center, South Plains College extends education beyond its college students. South Plains College is working with the Levelland Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Levelland to create a community garden in the new outdoor space. They also host elementary students on campus field trips. South Plains College even has its own “zoo” which includes a tortoise named Wilson, two bunnies, and several chickens.

South Plains College’s mission is to “improve student lives.” Whether in the classroom, teaching volunteerism in the community, or digging in the dirt to show students how to grow food for themselves and their families, South Plains College is demonstrating its commitment to its students and community.

Ebby Halliday & Maurice Acers Business/Industry
IKEA Grand Prairie

IKEA Grand Prairie opened in 2017, bringing their worldwide sustainability strategy, “People and Planet Positive,” to our community. Since 2021, IKEA Grand Prairie has supported Keep Grand Prairie Beautiful and the City of Grand Prairie. 

IKEA Grand Prairie  volunteers annually for the City of Grand Prairie Big Event Day of Service and for the Keep Grand Prairie Beautiful Adopt-a-Stream program. These events include assisting elderly neighbors with outdoor projects and removing litter from local streams.

Young IKEA visitors learn about material recovery at IKEA Grand Prairie using the mini-MRF

Young visitors learn about materials recovery using the mini-MRF at IKEA Grand Prairie

IKEA  Grand Prairie supports source reduction, reuse, and recycling through the Furniture Buy Back Program and the As-Is section. IKEA  Grand Prairie also provides a location for the City’s Solid Waste Department to collect Christmas trees for recycling into mulch for Grand Prairie residents to pick up at the landfill for free. IKEA GP supports clean energy production by maintaining 2,870 solar panels on their roof and providing electric vehicle charging stations. 

A volunteer opportunity through Adopt-a-Stream turned into the building of a mini materials recovery facility. A Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) is where single-stream recycling is separated before being turned into new materials. They created a hands-on model of the mini MRF from a repurposed checkout stand. This included an operational hand-cranked belt to move materials across the model, enabling students to sort recyclable materials with different methods.

member of the Cedar Hill Mayor's Teen Council

Members of Cedar Hill’s Mayor’s Teen Council

Ruthe Jackson Youth Organization

Cedar Hill’s Mayor’s Teen Council

he Cedar Hill Mayor’s Teen Council is comprised of a diverse blend of high school students and is dedicated to supporting the development of youth leadership skills. The students are actively involved in the environmental and community growth of Cedar Hill. 

The Mayor’s Teen Council plays a significant role in involving other young people in initiatives for the city. One standout example was when the Teen Council supported the City of Cedar Hill in working with elementary school children at an arts and crafts event, encouraging the children to share their visions for the proposed Library in the Park through drawings.

The Mayor’s Teen Council, in collaboration with the City of Cedar Hill, achieved community goals through the Library in a Park project in other remarkable ways. The Council played a pivotal role in advocating for the project, which received overwhelming community support through a bond proposition. Active involvement from multiple citizen committees, including the Mayor’s Teen Council, ensured diverse perspectives were considered, strengthening community ties and enhancing project outcomes. Moreover, the project’s strategic collaboration with partners exceeded participation goals, fostering economic opportunities for underutilized businesses.

Outstanding Project
Library in a Park, Cedar Hill, TX

Cedar Hill’s Library In A Park project exemplifies community collaboration and environmental stewardship. This innovative initiative provides a state-of-the-art public library integrated seamlessly with its natural surroundings, enhancing Cedar Hill’s environmental beauty while promoting education and community engagement.

Cedar Hill's Library in a Park

Artist rendering of Cedar Hill’s new Library in a Park

The Traphene Hickman Library is surrounded by the city’s new Signature Park featuring lush green spaces and nature trails. The city planted 231 new trees and 14,342 native plants during park development, contributing significantly to local biodiversity and ecosystem health. The City’s commitment to green space is also evident in an allocated plot of land across from the Library In A Park with a full treescape. The exclusive use of plants native to the region ensures the park remains in harmony with the city’s environment. The entire project was designed to LEED standards and was built with sustainability at the forefront of all efforts.

Beyond the immediate environmental benefits, the project fosters a sense of connection to nature among community members, encouraging outdoor recreation and appreciation for the local environment. These outcomes benefit current residents and lay a foundation for future generations to enjoy a healthier, more sustainable environment. By instilling a sense of environmental responsibility and appreciation for nature in today’s youth, the project ensures a legacy of environmental stewardship that will shape the future of Cedar Hill.