Remnants of a skateboard. A book. A candle. A camera case. A shoe sole. Tennis balls. Endless cigarette butts, beer bottles and plastic wrappers. These are the items that litter the banks of the Platte River.
At least, until mid-afternoon on Veterans Day 2010.
On that cold snowy day, a group of more than 65 volunteers – one of them as young as age 7 – gathered together to clean up a historic section of Lower Downtown (LoDo) in Denver. Confluence Park, where the Platte River and the Cherry Creek come together, is a bustling neighborhood of 19th-century brick warehouses and storefronts that has been redeveloped since the late 1980s. In summer, it is a place where bikers, walkers, runners, kayakers, sunbathers and frisbee-throwers gather for a downtown outdoor experience.
It also is a place where trash and debris collect. The beauty of this location, and the abuse it suffers as a result of human activity throughout the seasons, compelled volunteers to come here for a community service project on November 11.
The event kicked off with inspiring remarks from Robert Gordon III, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, an officer in the U.S. Army and a civilian-leader.
Mr. Gordon was visibly pleased to see the great number of young volunteers from the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), a team-based residential program for men and women age 18-24. The NCCC’s mission is to strengthen communities and develop leaders through direct, team-based national and community service. Mr. Gordon recounted his experience working for AmeriCorps, when he was part of a team that first conceptualized the formation of NCCC. He applauded the young volunteers for their hard work completing service projects throughout the country.
Mr. Gordon remarked on the significance of this project’s location in Confluence Park:
“A confluence is a coming together. Today, we are coming together as military service men and women, and civilians, to make a difference across the country. Young people, veterans, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, people who have been at war for nine years over multiple deployments. We are coming together for the good of a community.”
He also addressed the importance of building trust in relationships. Trust, he said, “is necessary for the betterment of a community. Colorado is the number one most beautiful spot in the U.S. People need to keep it clean,” he said, emphasizing that clean environments don’t just happen on their own.
Finally, Mr. Gordon pointed to leadership as a key ingredient to strong, sustainable communities. “We are here today leading others to also be good leaders. With this leadership, we will keep the environment clean, and will teach our children and others to take ownership and responsibility.”
How Garbage Inspires
What inspired the volunteers to get out on the river, cleaning up trash, on a cold day?
Special thanks to the organizations that worked together to make this happen:
Service Nation: Mission Serve, Veterans Green Jobs, National Civilian Community Corps, Denver Parks & Rec, Governor’s Commission on Community Service, Greenway Foundation.