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Friday, July 13, 2018

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful Makes Us All Beautiful

City-Wide Organization Benefits School Children, Our Neighborhoods and More

By Julie Isphording

It had been a good many years since I sat on a hard gym floor with kindergarteners to watch a “play” on an old wooden stage.  Even with all those intervening years, some things felt the same - the familiar ‘gym’ smells, the heavy curtain hanging on stage and the ‘pretty’ institutional concrete walls.
The place was Kilgour School.  The play was The Wartville Wizard, adapted from the children’s book with the same name.  The actors and actresses were drama students from Walnut Hills High School and the organization behind this wonderful endeavor was Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, an award-winning nonprofit that works to reduce litter, promote sustainability and cultivate community pride through education and action.

Over 200 volunteers joined Keep Cincinnati Beautiful to clean up the community as part of the City of Cincinnati's Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP). Volunteers from the UC give a fire hydrant a fresh coat of paint. (Photo by David Scheiman)
Each year, the engaging staff helps more than 25,000 students understand the importance of energy and water conservation, waste reduction and litter prevention by providing free assemblies and field trips. 

“We would like every student to have an appreciation for their environment, to be recycling at home and to have a passion to keep our city beautiful,” said Barb Wriston-Ruddy from Keep Cincinnati Beautiful. “Teaching children to use resources wisely will have a positive impact on their health and wellbeing as well as the future of Cincinnati.”

The Keep Cincinnati Beautiful team: Britt Glenn, Katie Davis, Claire Bryson, Marissa Reed, Mark Antrobus, Barb Wriston-Ruddy and Megan Beck.  This team does everything from clean-up to urban revitalization to teaching children in 58 schools about waste reduction, litter prevention and energy conservation.
My mind was full of new stuff as I watched the play unfold and take hold of the audience of children, parents and teachers.  "The people of Wartville are a bunch of slobs," says the old man inhabitant of the town, who spends his days picking up the trash his fellow citizens have carelessly tossed practically anywhere but where it should have been. 

Thirty minutes later, I was fond of being able to watch as the citizens of Wartville transitioned their city from "trashy" to "classy." But the real story was the look of awe and fascination on the faces of the captivated children.  That play unfolded so beautifully.  

A Keep Cincinnati Beautiful recycling show at Kilgour School with a cast from Walnut Hills High School. Both Hyde Park and Kilgour have received all three of the group’s assemblies this year: The Wartville Wizard, How Litter Hurts Animals/Wings of Wonder, and Ready, Set, RECYCLE.
“For today's students, recycling is a way of life. But that doesn't mean students understand why we recycle,” said one of Kilgour‘s third grade teachers. “It’s an amazing program and a gift to our school - to all of us.”

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful is committed it keeping it that way.  For the past 40 years, their education, revitalization and environmental initiatives have built a beautiful community and fostered tremendous civic pride. 

Kilgour students watch a recycling show from Keep Cincinnati Beautiful:  How Litter Hurts Animals.
“Keep Cincinnati Beautiful isn’t just about one clean up day or one education day or one day of ridding a wall of graffiti,” said Jackie Bryson, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful board member. “It’s a lifetime endeavor that requires millions of volunteers and an undying passion to make sure beauty is our lasting signature in Cincinnati.”  

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful will be celebrating its 40th anniversary this July.  Forty years of volunteerism, passion, generosity, leadership, brilliance, hard work and, of course, beauty.  
The next 40 years will be even better given the passion, leadership and brilliance of the staff in the various programs described below:

The cast from Walnut Hills High School who performs some of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful programs at Kilgour and Hyde Park School.  The playful, educational programs are all free because of the generosity of grantors.  The programs teach children to be “environmentally aware” and become environmental stewards by learning and participating in sustainability initiatives at school, in their own homes and in the community.
Keep Cincinnati Beautiful School Education Programs
Why do you love it?
The beauty of teaching young, curious minds is that as children this is one thing they can control and can take direct action (through recycling or composting) to have a positive impact on the environment.  In addition, we love working with children in the urban core.   Children in blighted neighborhoods often feel invisible, and subsequently feel their actions don’t have any meaning.  We help students understand they are an important part of their community and they can make a positive difference in their neighborhood.  

What are the results of your renowned education programs in schools? 
More children have an appreciation for the environment; access to and knowledge of recycling at home and in the community; and a passion to keep Cincinnati beautiful. Teaching children to use resources wisely and make daily green choices will have a positive impact on their health and the future of our city.  These students are our citizens of tomorrow; the green habits learned today will impact future generations.

How many students have you impacted? 
This year, we have worked in 58 schools throughout the Cincinnati region.  Over the last 10 years, we have impacted 233,180 students.  In addition, with the help of grant funding, all Cincinnati Public Schools have the resources and education to successfully implement recycling in their schools.

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful offers these free programs in all schools:  

Recycle This | 7th-12th | 45 minutes 
The Mystery of Landfills | 7th-12th | 45 minutes 
Understanding Your Carbon Footprint | 7th-12th | 45 minutes 
Graffiti Debated | 9th-12th | (2) 40 minute sessions 
Stormwater | 7th-12th | 45 minutes
Recycle This | K-6th | 45 minutes* 
Compost Stew | K-1st | 30 minutes 
Jitter, Don’t Litter | K-1st | 30 minutes 
Fred the Fish | K-3rd | 30 minutes 
How Litter Hurts Animals | K-3rd | 30 minutes 
The Wartville Wizard | K-3rd | 30 minutes 
Eco-Art | K-6th | 45 minutes 
Paper Recycling | K-6th | 45 minutes 
The Mystery of Landfills | 3rd-6th | 
45 minutes 
Understanding Your Carbon Footprint | 3rd-6th | 45 minutes

Visit for more information or to donate

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful Neighborhood Clean Up(s) Programs
Why are these so important to our city?
The cleanups create an awareness of the importance of a beautiful environment and help shoulder the burden of beautifying a space so it doesn’t fall on one person or one small group of citizens. If a larger group of people can come together for the greater good, maintenance is a priority, manageable and sustainable.

A volunteer from the UC picks up litter near an elementary school.  Schools are a major focus of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful where they teach children to have an appreciation for their environment, to recycle and to have a passion to keep Cincinnati beautiful. (Photo by David Scheiman)
How do you find the volunteers?
We have volunteers from the communities we work in -  corporate groups, schools, church groups… really anyone! Volunteerism has increased over the years because people realize that together we can make a dramatic impact in a span of four hours.  

Volunteers from Children's Hospital clear years of mess near South Avondale Elementary School as part of a large-scale cleanup effort organized by Keep Cincinnati Beautiful in partnership with the City's Neighborhood Enhancement Program. (Photo by Davide Scheiman)
Biggest challenge for your staff?
Trying to do everything! We are a passionate group, so when someone asks us to help with a project or host a volunteer group, we find any way we can to get the job done, and do it right.

How can people get more involved in clean-ups or support them in other ways? or contact Megan, our Volunteer Programs Manager, to plan a cleanup, join a cleanup or answer questions! Also, if you see our volunteers picking up trash or hauling tires up a hill on a Saturday morning, honk and say thank you - it means a lot when everyone sees what we’re doing and is thankful for the hard work. 

A volunteer from Great Lakes Brewing picks up litter as part of a large-scale cleanup effort organized by Keep Cincinnati Beautiful in partnership with the City's Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP).
Keep Cincinnati Beautiful Urban Revitalization/Blight Removal/Art Program
What does this program involve?
The program turns community problems like vacant buildings, tagged retaining walls and rusty chain link fences into assets by using the neglected space to create simple works of art. Low-cost, high-impact interventions boost the appearance and perception of a neighborhood, encourage economic development and improve quality of life. 

Why is it important?
All our Urban Revitalization programs are critical for combating chronic, city-wide issues of blight and neglect. These programs touch every neighborhood and Cincinnati resident by cleaning up and creating sustainable outcomes for vacant, neglected spaces. The ‘Broken Windows Theory’ shows by cleaning up graffiti, caring for vacant lots and injecting a little care into a community, that area is cleaner and safer.  In addition, there is a ripple effect into the surrounding area and the positive actions of other people.  

How can people get involved?
Be aware of the issues plaguing our communities and how we are working to solve them. The second is to be involved. Finally, be supportive through in-kind or financial resources you have to give. For every dollar given to KCB, we leverage $21 from that donation through volunteerism, in kind services and donations, grants, and much more. 

Visit for more information or to donate to one or all of their programs.

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