Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
“I love ‘Keep Irving Beautiful’,” said Cathy Whiteman, preparing to take the podium as emcee for the organization’s recent Partner Awards. The respected host of ICTN’s popular ‘About Towne’ segment grew more animated as she warmed to her topic.
“A town is held together by more than its streets,” Whiteman said. “It’s the people who live on those streets that work to make the community a place where people want to gather.
“If the streets are not clean, who wants to gather?”
She got no argument from the 80 guests who had gathered at First Baptist Church of Irving on Aug. 6 to pay tribute to the organization’s honorees. KIB Coordinator Rick Hose and Board Secretary Margie Stipes circulated among the displays showing the organization’s various recycling and ‘Keep Green’ activities, greeting everyone as though they were all honored guests.
Two of the movement’s foot soldiers were Velma White and Kary Verg who serve as ad hoc street cleaners in the Barton Estates neighborhood.
“We’ve been picking up trash around our neighborhood for at least ten years,” said White. “There are about four streets. We usually go about once a week, and we probably pick up about a bagful of trash each time.
“We saw a need and we stepped up.”
Irving Mayor Pro Tem Gerald Farris said efforts from people like White and Verg are a huge benefit to the city.
“They supplement the city so much with recycling and litter abatement,” Farris said. “That collectively adds value to our city with the quality of life. There’s a lot of education behind this to remind people that we do create a lot of trash.
“If a business is thinking about relocating to Irving, we want their employees to live nearby. It’s paramount, the visual impression you get of a city. We want them to drive down our corridors and get a favorable impression. We have to give them a quality of life to look forward to.”
One of the highlights in the program was the award given for Youth Leadership, as Vaishnavi Singh, Tanvi Biyani and Bhagyashri Pandey were recognized for establishing ‘Kids Mission’ in 2011. The three Irving teens brought their friends together for cleanups at Mustang Park and T.W. Richardson Grove Park, and also organized fund raising walkathons and readathons.
Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Ruben and Sandy Franco received a standing ovation, singled out for their support of KIB since its inception. The couple devoted countless hours to the task of coordinating the Irving-based 2008 Conference for ‘Keep Texas Beautiful’, but they also made it memorable.
“Ruben stepped up to ensure that attendees had transportation from the hotel to the KIB hosted barbecue,” said Whiteman, “where the highlight of that event was the hostesses. Sandy, Margie Stipes and the late Barbara Cardwell were all dressed in matching Lone Star shirts and cowgirl hats.”
Two ‘Hometown Award’ recipients were also honored. One, Maria Parra, turned her church carnival at St. Luke’s Catholic Church into a litter-free event, organizing fellow students as volunteers and even arranging team shirts. The group collected seven bags of litter after the carnival.
The other, Monica Atwell, is a biologist and a professor at North Lake Community College whose father was the late Jonathan Halsey, a past award recipient. In her role with the Science Learning Lab, Atwell sponsors the campus Green Club and uses the community garden to teach sustainability.
“She’s also an expert in vermiculture,” Whiteman continued, “and will gladly bring her worm bins to any educational events.”
The program concluded with the announcement that three local nominees for the 2012 Keep Texas Beautiful Awards, First Baptist Church of Irving, the City of Irving Public Works Department and Nissan North America all earned Citations of Merit.
Eleven awards were given in ten different categories. Honorees for Keep Irving Beautiful included:
Youth Leadership Awards: Kids Mission
Educator Award: North Lake College Student Life Department
Faith Group Award: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Business and Industry Award: Googly Eyes and Craft Supplies
Media Award: The Irving Rambler
Civic Organization Award: Lynn Diaz, Irving Family YMCA
Lifetime Achievement Award: Ruben and Sandy Franco
Civil Servant Award: Irving Fire Department’s Swiftwater Rescue Team
Green Government Award: City of Irving Public Works Department
KIB Hometown Award: Maria Parra
KIB Hometown Award: Monica Atwell.