Paxton woman seeks volunteers to clean up community

PAXTON — Seeing cigarette butts and other trash littered on the sidewalks and streets of downtown Paxton bothered Monica Miller.

So did seeing all of the empty beer cans along the country roads around the Ford County seat.

But what really irked the 28-year-old Paxton native was an incident on the Interstate 57 on-ramp, where she noticed a semi-truck driver, whose vehicle she had just seen at the nearby Hardee’s restaurant on West Ottawa Road, throwing out trash from his moving truck as he was about to get on the highway.

“He was parked at Hardee’s — and you have access to trash cans right there — yet he decided to just throw multiple things out of his window,” Miller said. “That made me, like, really angry — really angry — just the thoughtlessness of that.”

It was at that point that Miller decided to take action to fight the littering problem in Paxton.

“That very same day I emailed the city and said, ‘Who do I need to talk to about this?’” Miller recalled.

That led to a conversation with Mayor Bill Ingold. During their talk, Miller proposed to the mayor the idea of starting a litter pickup program in the community, as well as beautifying the community in general.

“He was definitely for it,” Miller said.

Miller hopes to start the program — which she is calling the Community Improvement Teamwork Initiative (CITI) — in mid-November.

But she can’t do it all by herself. She is asking for volunteers from the community to join her.

The program would involve Miller and other volunteers picking up trash around Paxton and the outskirts of Paxton on Fridays or Saturdays either every week or every other week.

“I’m hoping we can do it a couple or maybe even three times before winter really hits,” Miller said, “so that way, when spring comes next year I’ll still be able to just push through (and continue it).”

The program would operate year-round, weather permitting. If enough support can be obtained, Miller hopes the program grows to include other communities in Ford County and Central Illinois.

“Eventually, I want to make it a solid program that sticks around even if I’m not here,” Miller said. “It could also be expanded potentially to other areas, like Gibson City.”

Miller said she is hoping to find at least a dozen volunteers to help with her initiative in Paxton. The volunteers would not be required to participate every time, but they would be asked to sign up on a schedule so that Miller knows her volunteers’ availability.

Miller said she is starting out by asking for volunteer help from local churches, Paxton-Buckley-Loda schools and the Ford County Probation Department. She said the program could be a learning tool for PBL students in regards to the value of caring for the environment and learning the benefits of doing so.

“I want to hopefully kind of get an accredited program or something like that to motivate (students) or entice them to volunteer,” Miller said.

Anyone interested in volunteering can call Miller at 217-255-3222. Miller said she also plans to soon post information on a website she is creating for her program, plus its Facebook page that is currently being developed.

Miller, who is employed as an administrative assistant for the Housing Authority of Champaign County, said she has never tried to do something like this before — but she is excited to try.

“I’m trying to make a lot of changes in my life right now, and one of them is to create positivity around me,” Miller said. “And I think this is a good way for me to do that.

“I go walking every day, almost every day, and I’ve been walking downtown, on the outskirts of town, and the trash is just absolutely terrible — all the litter,” Miller continued. “I also feel like there are things we could do just to make the town prettier, I guess, even if it’s just planting some flowers here and there.

“If we want to be a better city, then we need to better our city.”

Categories (3):News, Environment, Living
Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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