Volunteers make a splash bashing the trash
Cargill involvement continues to grow at Arkansas River Trash Roundup in Wichita
By Cristy Tran April 28, 2016
A record-breaking 1,300 volunteers crowded together at the 15th annual Arkansas River Trash Roundup, Wichita’s largest Earth Day event on April 23 – a 50 percent increase in participants from the previous year. The volunteers, eager to improve the waterway located in the heart of the city, were handed trash bags, nets and tools to gather bits of garbage scattered within the river, along the riverbanks and across the sidewalks nearby. In the event’s history, volunteers have collected more than 23 tons of trash along the Arkansas River. This year, they will add more than two tons to the total.
Proceeds will also benefit Wichita Ducks Unlimited, an organization dedicated to protecting the city’s waterways, and its upcoming project to restore approximately two acres of wetlands area at a Wichita community nature center. Previous trash roundup donations of around $85,000 helped complete the restoration of another wetlands area, expanding the area from 70 acres to more than 900 acres, as well as supported the organization’s youth education program.
The success and impact on the community, coordinators say, is largely due to the support of Cargill and its employees.
“Cargill has been the lead sponsor for this initiative for the past eight years, and without its support, we would not be where we are today,” said Cindy Le, environmental specialist for the City of Wichita. “It’s evident that Cargill employees are dedicated to taking care of our environment and participating beyond a monetary donation.”
As the title sponsor, Cargill donated $15,000 to the cause, as well as countless volunteer hours. On Saturday morning, as groups of volunteers in light blue T-shirts donning the event theme – “#RockTheArk” – dispersed up and down the river, one group of Cargill volunteers remained stationed in a large parking lot designated as the staging area for the event. Like experts, they began grilling Cargill TNT brand hamburgers, as well as hot dogs for lunch for all attendees.
Additionally, several Cargill employees were among members of the planning committee for the event, which also included members from the City of Wichita, Ducks Unlimited and other lead sponsors and donors. The group included Scott Hartter, vice president of environment, health and safety (EHS) for Cargill’s protein businesses and Dianna McMillan, safety/ergonomics coordinator, who has been a lead coordinator for the event since the start of Cargill’s involvement.
“Before Cargill got involved, there were only about 75 volunteers. When we signed on in 2009, we were the only funding sponsorship. This year, we’re celebrating 18 sponsorships from local organizations and a record number of volunteers that well exceeded our expectations and our initial goal of 900 volunteers,” said McMillan.
“Our employees are so passionate about environmental sustainability, and are proud to make a positive impact where we live and work. This event provides countless benefits for everything from improving the home for wildlife in the river to conservation education and environmental reclamation for our community,” Hartter added.
The team has big plans to continue the momentum of this record-breaking year and will look for more opportunities to expand and bring even greater awareness to the event and its cause.
“We want to keep introducing new, fresh ideas to the mix. This year, we boosted high school and college student participation, which I think helped grow our attendance, so we definitely want to keep finding more ways to get people involved,” said Le. “The trash roundup is such a unique event for our community. Our efforts thus far have undoubtedly made a lasting positive impact for the natural resources in our area.”