STAMFORD, Conn. (January 1, 2023) – 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 January 2023 is Keep Phoenix Beautiful.
Like our previous Affiliate of the Month awardees, Keep Phoenix 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.
Q&A with Keep Phoenix Beautiful President & CEO, Tom Waldeck:
Keep Phoenix Beautiful President & CEO, Tom Waldeck
How long have you been involved with Keep Phoenix Beautiful and what role(s) have you held?
I’ve been President/CEO of Keep Phoenix Beautiful for 15 years. I started just as the great recession was starting!
You also sit on the Board for KAB. Tell us more about that history.
I was voted on the Board by my fellow affiliate members in 2010, and was asked to be on the Executive Board shortly after that. A few years later I was asked to take on the additional duties as Treasurer and had that role till last year. One of my greatest joys of being on the Board so long has been visiting so many affiliates as our Board meetings moved around the country.
When did your passion for taking care of the environment begin?
I guess you could call me an old hippie! Growing up in the 60’s & 70’s it drove me nuts when people would throw things out car windows which was very common back then. As recycling starting becoming more common, I recall growing up in Chicago and we would have a container for paper, one for glass and one for aluminum and they all had to be out at the curb the same day. My house was one of the few in the neighborhood that actively did it from the start.
Tell us about the staff at Keep Phoenix Beautiful.
The staff at Keep Phoenix Beautiful is amazing! With four full time and three part time we do incredible things. Our “I Recycle Phoenix” events have kept millions of pounds of “stuff” like electronics, bicycles, office supplies and clothing out of the landfill.
Our Community Gardens are phenomenally successful, and we have planted thousands of trees in city parks. We teach thousands of children in Phoenix schools about recycling and water conservation, activate volunteers on a weekly basis, and partner with city of Phoenix on many projects. Our Program Director Cindy Moss has been with the organization since 2003, our Education Manager Sarah since 2017, and Mikaela and Ashe are recent hires joining us right after graduation from Arizona State University. Our Garden Team of Terry, Gail and Mary Lu are all part-time and been with us since 2016. They are also Master Gardeners.
Keep Phoenix Beautiful received a 2020 Keep America Beautiful Innovation award.
Tell us about that project and why it was important to complete.
This was an amazing event. It was brought to us by former Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (now Congressman Stanton) when the local Sikh Community wanted to honor the 550th anniversary of the birth of the founder of Sikhism. The idea came from and event that happened right after 9-11 when a fellow Sikh was shot and killed outside his convenient store in the area. The Community planted a tree in his honor and it has grown to be a beautiful tree. So they wanted to plant 550 trees to celebrate the Sikh community birth. We worked with the Mayor’s Office, Public Works, Neighborhood Services and Phoenix Parks identifying locations around downtown Phoenix and planted over 800 trees! And in Phoenix you just can’t put a tree in the ground, it needs water and some care so we added an education component to it. Funny sidenote, when I was returning from the KAB Board meeting this summer in Atlanta, I was sitting in the American Airlines Admirals Club in a quiet corner and a father and a son, both with head coverings, took the seats next to me. I asked if they were Sikh and they said yes and I proceeded to tell them the story. Well, It was this man’s father who made this whole project a reality! The Sikh Community raised all the dollars for this projects and we were the fiscal agent for the proceeds. Parks ordered all the trees at their contracted prices and we aid the invoices keeping everything out of the city systems.
Besides that project, what are some other things the staff and volunteers have done that Keep Phoenix Beautiful is exceptionally proud of?
An event we are very proud of was in 2014 when we hosted the Day of Service for the Clinton Global Initiative University when they had a weekend of events at Arizona State. With over 650 college students from all over the world and President Clinton, his daughter Chelsea, Gabby Giffords first appearance since her tragic shooting, and many other politicians and celebrities, we are still looked upon as a benchmark for future events.
We are also working with NFL green and the AZ Super Bowl Host Committee to make Phoenix the “greenest “ ever Super Bowl in February. As we did in 2016 the last time the Super Bowl was here, we try and keep as much décor, material and food waste, from the landfill and recycle as much as possible.
See the interview with Tom Waldeck here: