Keep Stockwell Beautiful – KAB’S Affiliate of the Month for May 2022

STAMFORD, Conn. (May 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 May 2022 is Keep Stockwell Beautiful in Indiana.

Like our previous Affiliate of the Month awardees, Keep Stockwell 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. 

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Q&A with Keep Stockwell Beautiful Chair of the Board of Directors, Kris Ziller:

Chair of Keep Stockwell Beautiful, Kris Ziller

How long have you been leading Keep Stockwell Beautiful?

I have been the Chair of the Board of Directors for a total of 17 years – 15 years as a KAB Affiliate.  

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

I grew up in a family that loved the out of doors. I was a Ranger Rick Nature Club Member as a child and that reinforced what my parents taught.  Being an environmental steward was a fact of life for me. 

Our town was going through an upheaval with city sewer systems being installed throughout this 172 home town.  The streets were torn up and dirty, and people really got discouraged and began neglecting their own property.  A group of volunteers decided to distribute flowerpots around town.  We started out just randomly placing flowerpots out, and KSB has grown from there.

Tell us about your staff at Keep Stockwell Beautiful.

You see it! We are a staff of one with a great Board of Directors, all of which are volunteers.  We do not have paid staff.  That’s what makes us unique.  Our town size, population less that 500, and our total volunteer program.  We may be small, but I think we have proven that “rural America is alive and well.”  I also think we have been an example to other small communities that it is possible to run a program in any size town on a shoestring budget.  We operate on an average budget of approximately $18,000.  We are totally funded by the John and Ruby Parks Foundation. This Foundation has supported us for 16 years and continues to support several programs in our  township. 

You received a 2020 Keep America Beautiful Innovation award.  Tell us about that project and why it was important to you to complete.

We have partnered with James Cole Elementary since 2007.  We have worked hard to offer educational and community projects for the students.  Cole Kids Cleanup Stockwell is a sustainable, national award-winning youth program that was recognized in 2009.  I believe that this award emphasized that Cole Kids is a valuable program for the children and the community.  

The children walk to town from James Cole Elementary with fluorescent safety vests on, with determination in their hearts.  They know that they have been charged with the task of helping Stockwell stay beautiful.  They know that “Mrs. Z” is depending on all 100 pairs of hands to pitch in on this day.  They know at the end of the day is the best because there is pizza! 

This project started out of a need for clean ups in and around town.  The reduction in transportation funds for school field trips created an issue of “how do we get them there?”  Since school is so close to town, walking to town was the solution!

We also work with Cole for our Bulky Trash Program. Cole offers their parking lot for us to use for our Waste, tire and electronics collection. 

Recycle Mania takes place every November at Cole.  The third-grade children participate in recycling games and educational sessions.  Stockwell United Methodist Church provides volunteers for this program.  

Besides that project, what are some other things you and your staff and volunteers have done that you’re exceptionally proud of?

In 2019, we were presented the Indiana Tree Farm Outstanding Outdoor Lab. This award confirmed that all the hard work of “bringing back” the lab after years of neglect paid off.  This five-acre gem is the focus of the James Cole Outdoor Education Center (JCOEC) curriculum that is posted on the Tippecanoe County School Corporation website. All grade levels participate in this curriculum at Cole. The JCOEC hosts several programs each year.  These programs are not only for the students but also local groups, organizations and the general public. 

New Trex Deck at the JCOEC
offers easy access to the pond area

We initiated a new PR campaign that feature “Keepers of our Community.”  Each month features “Keepers” of Recycling, Community, Dirty Hands, etc. with a picture that denotes a community member that is a “Keeper.” There is a brief story and environmental or community reminder to be a “Good Keeper.”  We are all “Keepers” of our Environment. 

For the past several years, twice a year, we offer our Bulky Trash/Tire/Electronics and Medicine collection.  This takes place in the James Cole Elementary parking lot on a Saturday.  This past March, we had one of our biggest collections; 44,000 pounds was collected and over 20,000 pounds recycled!  There were over 200 people that attended and 525 tires collected.  This is one of our most popular programs that we offer the community.  This program is free of cost.

Our community has been trying so hard to change our appearance and behaviors toward the environment.  Litter has been reduced, recycling has increased, and property neglect has decreased.  In a recent study, completed by the Tippecanoe County Area Plan Commission, there was a significant reduction in homes and business that are neglected.  When TCAP asked what the residents felt was the cause for the increase, Keep Stockwell Beautiful was the answer!

I am proud of being a part of the smallest national award-winning affiliate in the Keep America Beautiful Family.  Since we became an affiliate, we have won four national group awards and one individual award.  We have received two local awards from Subaru of Indiana and the Tippecanoe Soil and Water Conservation District.  Again, size has nothing to do with success of an affiliate.  People make the affiliate work. 

What’s going on in 2022 for Keep Stockwell Beautiful?

We have a huge tree project that will begin soon at the JCOEC.  We will be selective tree-cutting around the pond area.  We will then be installing new rock borders.  This will allow more children to fish and take advantage of the bank area.  The Indiana Invasive Plant Society will be eradicating the honeysuckle in the woodland area.

I’m excited for our 2nd annual Fishing Derby at the JCOEC.  This was a huge success last year, and we maxed out on the number of children we could fish safely, 45.  We are in hopes that since we are opening up the bank areas, we can include at least 20 to 25 more children. 

The last several years, KSB has added spring bulbs to the town’s common areas.  This year, we will be adding 500 more bulbs to town. 

Since the 2021 KAB conference, we have been in contact with our state senator, Mike Braun. He and his assistant will be coming to Stockwell for a visit. We are excited about building a relationship with him. 

Finally, last year, the Board of Directors worked diligently to develop a new five-year Strategic Plan. I’m excited about what new and existing programs are coming on the horizon!

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Keep America Beautiful thanks Kris and the volunteers of Keep Stockwell Beautiful for their continuous hard work. We’re proud to have Keep Stockwell Beautiful in the KAB family.

See the interview with Kris Ziller here:

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