Keep Lee County Beautiful: Keep America Beautiful’s Affiliate of the Month for December 2022

STAMFORD, Conn. (December 1, 2022) – Keep America Beautiful® is proud to announce our next Affiliate of the Month. In this KAB initiative, we feature the great work being done in our network of 700 certified affiliates. Our Affiliate of the Month for December 2022 is Keep Lee County Beautiful in Florida.

Like our previous Affiliate of the Month awardees, Keep Lee County Beautiful is being recognized for the Innovation Award they received from KAB in 2020. The Keep America Beautiful Innovation Award salutes affiliates that have created innovative partnerships and programs to further the mission of Keep America Beautiful.

KAB also wanted to speak with Keep Lee County Beautiful following the devastation they faced from Hurricane Ian on September 28. Keep Florida Beautiful has established the REBUILD Beautiful fund to help KAB affiliates affected. Please learn more and donate by clicking here.

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KLCB Executive Director
Trish Fancher

Q&A with Keep Lee County Beautiful Executive Director, Trish Fancher:

How long have you been involved with Keep Lee County Beautiful and what role(s) have you held?

I started with Keep Lee County Beautiful in 2004 as a Program Coordinator. Back then, it was a very different organization than it is today. I became the Executive Director in 2015 and have served in that role since.

When did your passion for taking care of the environment begin?

I have grown up on the beaches here in Ft. Myers. Even when I lived in Indiana for a couple of years, we always vacationed here in Ft. Myers. I love the ocean. I have to see the water every single day. What always amazes me about the ocean is that it’s very calm many days, but there’s so much activity happening underneath it. And I just feel like there’s so much craziness underneath it yet it stays calm – that has always appealed to me.

As I got older, I went to school to be a marine biologist. But I realized what I wanted to do would have me living on a boat none months of the year which is not conducive when you have children. So this is my way of protecting the environment without living on a boat. I’m still able to protect the critters, the wildlife, and our natural environment – and hopefully protect something that I’m going to be leaving to my kids, grandkids, and great grandkids in the future.

Hurricane Ian tore through your area on September 28, and I know the devastation has been significant. Tell us about the impact it has had on your team and the area.

It impacted our organization quite a bit. Half of my teams’ homes flooded and we lost our office. All of our supplies are scattered in different board members’ garages and storage units. We had several board members who lost everything. Several lost vehicles, so our company vehicles are out on loan right now so they have a vehicle.

I won’t lie. It took me a little while. I was struggling because I spent two decades cleaning this community, and it’s a horrible mess. And I’ve planted over a hundred thousand trees in the last two decades, and they’re gone or dead. So I kind of was like, “What am I doing?” But now that we’re over that little hump, it’s an opportunity to rebuild stronger. Most of the things that were destroyed were older construction/not built up to current code. It’s an opportunity to rebuild stronger and safer while keeping that same community charm that everyone loves about this area. We’ll get it back to not only what it was but better, and I’m excited to be a part of that.


The REBUILD Beautiful Fund was established in October 2022 by Keep Florida Beautiful as a way to support our affiliate communities in need. Resources and donations collected through the REBUILD Beautiful Fund are granted to Florida affiliates to help restore and revitalize communities impacted by natural disaster or unprecedented events.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

As you look towards 2023, goals have likely changed due to the hurricane. Give us some insight into what those goals are now and some projects you’re working on.

Of course we want to help the community rebuild. But for me personally, my friends, my network affiliates, KAB – I’ve come to love and adore them. And they were reaching out to ask how they could help. But I didn’t have anything to say to them, as this wasn’t just a come in and pick up trash for a day ordeal. But everyone wanted to help, so I think it’s an opportunity to have a better plan when it comes to that recovery process.

I am just now, 8 weeks later, getting out to clean our beaches because it wasn’t safe. But we did have affiliates come help us tarp roofs, others sent supplies and trailers… It’s an opportunity to learn from what happened here and prepare for the next one that’s going to come.

The other thing I learned is that cleanup is very personal. All these volunteers wanting to rush to cleanup is fantastic, but when you’re still walking around the yards of the neighborhood trying to find your personal belongings, you don’t want volunteers out there doing that. So we learned a few things like that that could become a better playbook: how can outside communities help when something like this happens? I want to work on developing that.

You received a Keep America Beautiful Innovation award in 2020.  Tell us about that project.

That project was born out of a different hurricane: Hurricane Irma in 2017. Irma ripped straight up the state of Florida and took out tree farms on both sides of the state. We wanted to do some tree plantings but there was no stock to be found. It was the brainchild of one of the board members who is a landscape architect. He felt we could serve multiple things if we did a program called “Growing Community Roots.” We would plant a tree farm on high school campuses, a club would take care of that for three to four years, and then when the trees became mature, KLCB could use half to do beautification projects or sell as a fundraiser, and the school could do the same thing.

It brings agriculture back to our community and gives us a stock of trees for beautification projects, so it’s a win-win all the way around.

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Keep America Beautiful thanks Trish and the staff and volunteers of Keep Lee County Beautiful for their continuous hard work. We’re proud to have Keep Lee County Beautiful in the KAB family. Again, please click here to help Keep Lee County Beautiful rebuild and recover from Hurricane Ian.

See the interview with Trish Fancher here:

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