KAB Volunteer Spotlight: One Woman’s Work to Clean Up Her Alabama Neighborhood Inspires Annual Event in Her Name

ATHENS, Alabama (February 28, 2022) – Keep America Beautiful loves to highlight the people across the country who are doing great work to clean up the environment, and it’s our pleasure to get to know Mrs. Laverne Gilbert of Athens, Alabama.  KAB learned about Mrs. Laverne from KAB affiliate Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful Executive Director, Leigh Patterson.

Gilbert (known as Mrs. Laverne to all) has become an invaluable addition to Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful. Her work to clean up her neighborhood started in 2020. She had just retired and planned to “go on some cruises and just enjoy life.” But, the COVID-19 pandemic changed those plans.

Soon after, she saw a man mowing a yard across the street from her home. When he started weeding, he didn’t go all the way to the road, so Mrs. Laverne approached him, asking why. He told her that the property belonged to the city. So she went inside her home and called the city about cleaning the remaining tall grass. She was told her name would be added to the list, but it might be awhile due to COVID-19. However, the next morning, she woke up to the sound of a tractor. She looked outside and the grass was being mowed by the city. She approached the driver and asked if he was going to “get all of it,” but the driver said he’d “make a mess.” So, Mrs. Laverne simply told him, “You make the mess. I’ll clean it up!”

Mrs. Laverne got a broom and started sweeping the sidewalk by the area that had just been mowed. But, as she looked around, she saw tremendous amounts of litter in the ditch by the sidewalk. Determined to get things done, Mrs. Laverne headed to the mayor’s office.

“When I walked in and talked to the receptionist, I didn’t know I needed an appointment,” Mrs. Laverne told KAB with a giggle.

Just minutes later, Mayor Ronnie Marks saw Mrs. Laverne.

“Listen, I need a vest, some grabbers, and some bags,” she told Mayor Marks.

He directed her to Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful.

After meeting with KALB, the next day she woke up and started to pick up trash.

“The day I was cleaning up over by my house, a lady came through and asked, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m cleaning up this mess!’ She said, ‘Well, that belongs to the city.’ I said, ‘No. It’s our job.'”

Within a short amount of time, Mrs. Laverne recruited other volunteers and they picked up litter in her neighborhood and surrounding areas every week, picking up around 120 bags over a three-month period. 

The reaction to their work was strong. In fact, a local pastor saw her efforts and ended up partnering with Mrs. Laverne, KALB, and other organizations to put on a clean-up event called “Mrs. Laverne’s Clean My Block Party.”  Quite a way to honor her work.

“The pastor had gone by and stopped to ask me what I was doing. When I told him I was cleaning things up, he told me, ‘We need to talk.’ He told me he had a group of young people with his church that wanted to get involved.”

Mrs. Laverne has only just begun. She’s now a member of the Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful Commission, and she attends city council meetings regularly to make sure everyone knows what areas need to be cleaned up. There’s always work to be done, but Mrs. Laverne some advice on how we can get there:

“My advice to everyone about caring for the environment: reuse, reduce, and recycle.  If we can all do those three things, we will be great.”

We’re proud to have Mrs. Laverne Gilbert in the Keep America Beautiful family. Thank you, Mrs. Laverne, for your work and dedication to caring for the world around us. Also, the next “Mrs. Laverne’s Clean My Block Party” is in the works. KAB will be sure to follow-up on this story when it happens.

“Laverne has been a joy to work with over the last couple of years. Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful is certainly grateful for her willingness to volunteer and her desire to make a difference in our community. Her commitment to tackling litter, bringing awareness to blight, and her vision of making Athens and Limestone County a cleaner and more beautiful place is an inspiration to us all!” – Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful Executive Director, Leigh Patterson

Abby Turpin, Director of Communications
Keep America Beautiful®
aturpin@kab.org