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Updated: 12/02/2012 08:00:05AM

Cleanup efforts recognized

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Keep Polk County Beautiful recognized individuals, schools and busineses during Thursday night's annual awards ceremony at Bok Tower Gardens.


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A Lake Wales middle school teacher and a group at Lake Ashton Golf Club were among those honored at the Keep Polk County Beautiful 2011-12 Annual Awards program held Thursday night at Bok Tower Gardens.

Keep Polk County Beautiful is a non-profit organization that focuses on litter prevention, education, community cleanups and beautification projects through out the county.

The Adopt-A-Road Group of the Year award went to Lake Ashton. In announcing the winner, Katie Yoxall, executive director of Keep Polk County Beautiful, said the Lake Ashton volunteers have been active since 2003.

“This group has adopted Thompson Nursery Road — a highly traveled and littered road — and does a great job of keeping it clean,” Yoxall said.

Three Preserving Polk awards were given out.

One went to Scott Smith, a seventh-grade science teacher at McLaughlin Middle School, Smith has implemented and overseen a successful recycling program for the past two years. Yoxall said Smith teaches students to commit themselves and become responsible for their school-wide recycling program that is collected twice a week. Smith and the students, “have inspired classrooms school wide and the office staff to increase their recycling efforts at school, work and at home.”

The second award was presented to Polk County Code Enforcement Officer Denise Bryant Kendrick, who works out of Bartow. Yoxall said in the past year Keep Polk County Beautiful has partnered with the Polk County Commission and Waste Resource Management to implement a new clean sweep type program to give citizens a chance to clean up and rid themselves of unwanted junk and code violations.

“Through this program one code enforcement officer stand outs in particular ... ” Yoxall said. “She is up at the crack of dawn, talking to all residents to encourage them to take advantage of this cleanup and help to continue these good clean practices. She has attended and spoke at these community meetings; she has slung tires and dug in ditches. She is always willing to assist Keep Polk County Beautiful for whatever our needs may be.”

The Haines City Police Department received the other Preserving Polk award. The department participates in the Great American Cleanup.

“This past year they went above and beyond and assisted us in finding a location and partnered during the GAC and Clean It Up to Green It Up program,” Yoxall said.

The department coordinated 119 volunteers to collect 120 bags of trash and assisted in recycling 549 tires and 40.91 tons of trash.

Cliff Pierce was named Volunteer of the Year. Yoxall said Highlands Grove Elementary in Lakeland, “is especially thankful to have such a wonderful volunteer who has created a butterfly garden and outdoor classroom. He continues to fertilize, trim and nurture trees. He has fine-tuned the courtyard by cultivating and maintains the plants, and he assists with the children’s own 768-square-foot edible garden.”

Two schools were given “Litter Bugs Me” awards — Laurel Elementary School in Poinciana and Lakeland High School.

Laurel’s cafeteria uses all Styrofoam. During the 2010-11 year, it used 36 cubic yards of waste each week. A new system was implemented with students and that number decreased to 18 cubic yards. With the changes the school was able to remove one Dumpster and save the school more than $3,000 a year.

The Lakeland High School Leadership Cadre recycled more than six tons of paper to raise more than $240 during 2011-12. Leadership students collected more than 65 recycling bins on a weekly basis and sorted and separated the recyclables. This year the students will give more than 200 classroom presentations about the importance of recycling.

Republic Services and Rubber Applications of Mulberry received Living the Green Dream awards. The award is presented to local businesses and municipalities that best exemplify litter prevention, beautification and minimizing the impacts of solid waste in Polk.

The Environmental Champion Award went to State Farm.

Yoxall said it is a company that has had a defined recycling program nationwide since the mid-1970s.

“They were recycling before it was considered cool,” she said.

The Winter Haven office collects and recycles 50 pounds of batteries, nine tons of cardboard, 450 wood pallets, 800 light tubes, 2,000 pounds of plastics and aluminum and 200 tons of shredded paper each year. The company estimates its current recycling rate at 85-90 percent of all eligible paper.