STAMFORD, Conn. (July 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 July 2022 is Keep Riverside Clean & Beautiful in California.
Like our previous Affiliate of the Month awardees, Keep Riverside Clean & 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 Riverside Clean & Beautiful Executive Director, Connie Librenjak:
How long have you been the executive director of Keep Riverside Clean & Beautiful?
15 years. I started in August 2007.
When did your passion for taking care of the environment begin?
I think back and it was things like earning Girls Scouts badges where you learned to care about the environment. I remember during middle and high school collecting recyclable materials for Earth Day and storing them in my parents’ garage and then asking my dad to drive me to the nearest recycling center. Back in those days, they were hard to find.
Tell us about your staff at Keep Riverside Clean & Beautiful.
In fifteen years, I have been lucky enough to search out talent from our local universities after graduation. Our staff of two project coordinators has always been a small but mighty team that is enthusiastic, cares about the local environment, and enjoys engaging the community. The present team we have in place exemplifies all of that and more. They manage monthly cleanups, annual signature events, and the three beautification programs we run simultaneously; Love Your Neighborhood, Adopt-A-Street and Adopt-An-Alley. All of that requires recruiting volunteers, marketing campaigns, fundraising efforts and they manage to do it all! The staff also manages a 25-member Advisory Board that consists of Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce (GRCC) members from the public and private sectors and a networking group called, Public Education Program for Graffiti Solutions. Both meet 6 times a year, in the even months, at the GRCC.
You received a 2020 Keep America Beautiful Innovation award. Tell us about that project and why it was important to you to complete.
Love Your Neighborhood was a new volunteer program for KRCB that literally morphed from the pandemic. Like everyone, we had to pause our volunteer program. One day, the three of us started to brainstorm ideas [over the phone] because California was allowing people to go outside every day and take a walk or w/those that lived in their household. The idea for Love Your Neighborhood grew from there. We came up with the idea to ask family and friends who lived in the same household, if they wanted to collect litter and debris, clean storm drains that they walked pass, pile palm fronds [because we have a lot of Palm Trees in Riverside], remove graffiti tags from street poles and utility boxes, and rake up weeds and green waste while taking a daily walk! They said YES! The idea exploded w/ the community [in a good way]! Families and friends were signing up every day and we could barely keep up with it in the beginning. I could not believe the # of people that showed up to get supplies. We had over 1000 families in a 12-week window the summer of 2020.
Besides that project, what are some other things you and your staff and volunteers have done that you’re exceptionally proud of?
The one thing I am most proud of is the overall spirit of volunteerism that runs through this City week after week, that I have seen with my own eyes for 15 years. I see volunteers persevere when it starts to rain and when the temperatures rise. They stay the course on a day when weather is not working in their favor and that means a lot. That is a heart light for me! I’m most grateful for the support and generosity of the KRCB Advisory Board and I’m most proud of the tireless effort of the two KRCB project coordinators who keep all the plates spinning in the air at one time.
What’s going on in 2022 for Keep Riverside Clean & Beautiful that you want everyone to know about?
2022 has been a comeback year for KRCB. We keep it safe, fun, and efficient and there is never a dull moment for this team of three. We always have multiple volunteer cleanups to coordinate throughout the city every single week; large and small groups of all kinds. This year we learned how to manage and execute four different programs simultaneously. They are: Saturday morning Ward projects [The City of Riverside is divided into 7 Wards, and we do a cleanup in each Ward annually or 7 Saturdays a year], the Adopt-A-Street program [ under complete restoration since 2020], the Adopt-An–Alley program [a Ward 2 initiative] and the Love Your Neighborhood program. Not to mention the recognition programs, fundraising efforts and the annual events that occur throughout the year. We are slowly starting to hit the # of volunteers [7000 annually] that we were putting through the program prior to the pandemic, one cleanup at a time.
Keep America Beautiful thanks Connie and the staff and volunteers of Keep Riverside Clean & Beautiful for their continuous hard work. We’re proud to have Keep Riverside Clean & Beautiful in the KAB family.
See the interview with Connie Librenjak here:
Contact: Abby Turpin, Director of Communications
Keep America Beautiful®