Posted on February 8, 2021
El Dorado News-Times
Ward 3 is gearing up for a community cleanup that will honor a former El Dorado City Council member who championed neighborhood cleanliness, beautification and revitalization for the entire city.
The Tony Henry Ward 3 Community Cleanup is scheduled from 10 a.m. until noon on Feb. 20. The cleanup will honor Henry — the Ward 3, Position 2 city council member who died in 2018 while in office — and celebrate Black History Month, organizers said.
The community, particularly residents of Ward 3, are encouraged to participate.
Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer said the cleanup will also kick off Ward Rewards, a new city initiative that includes city officials, employees and community leaders in an effort to engage local residents in helping to keep the city clean.
As part of the program, the city will provide support, tools and resources for community cleanups.
As an incentive, prizes including gift cards/certificates, will be awarded to volunteers and Smith-Creer said the city is exploring other ideas, such as contests for best yard, most trash collected, etc.
Ward Rewards resulted from ongoing conversations during recent El Dorado City Council meetings, with Ward 3 council members Willie McGhee and Andre Rucks placing an emphasis on attention to all wards, noting the coverage area of Ward 3, the largest of the city’s four wards.
McGhee said he and Henry, a longtime friend, had worked together to help clean Ward 3 for years, even before Henry was initially elected to city council in 2009 to fill a vacancy in the Ward 3, Position 2 seat.
The pair organized volunteers and targeted specific areas in Ward 3 to clean twice a month, Mc-Ghee recalled.
“One week, we would be in Murmil Heights. Another week, we would be in (the Fairview Addition) and then we would go to Marrable Hill,” McGhee said.
“Me and him would get out with a group of kids, he would get his (Masonic) brothers and we would get out pick up trash,” McGhee continued. “The city would provide trash bags and they would get the trucks out to pick up trash and people would bring donuts and water.”
Henry was a co-founder and leader of Keep El Dorado Beautiful, an organization that was launched in 2013 to help build a sustainable cleanup campaign that focuses on litter, recycling and beautification throughout the city.
Keep El Dorado Beautiful
KEB seeks to educate and support local residents and groups by providing tools and resources to help keep the El Dorado clean.
City Council Member Dianne Hammond is also an original member of KEB, which, in partnership with Clean Harbors, has also offered cash incentives and worked with local groups to help coordinate neighborhood cleanups.
During an El Dorado City Council meeting Feb. 4, Janis Van Hook, president of KEB, reported on some of the initiatives that KEB has undertaken, including working with 35th Judicial District Court Judge Jack Barker to direct to KEB qualified defendants who need to reconcile fines with community service.
KEB also teams up with Northwest Elementary School each year for an Earth Day project called “Plant the Town Purple” in a nod to the purple-and-white school colors of El Dorado High School.
KEB members, school officials and students work together to grow low-maintenance purple plans and distribute the plants to students, who then take the plants home and encourage their families to plant in their yards to promote beautification.
Last month, KEB worked with Leadership Union County (ULEAD), the El Dorado-Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class, to organize a community cleanup that focused on Timberlane between Hillsboro and Mount Holly Road and the immediate area.
Van Hook told city officials that as a result of the cleanup, the class has decided to adopt that segment of Timberlane to keep it litter-free.
The cleanup was one of several with which KEB assisted over the years.
Van Hook explained that KEB works with Keep Arkansas Beautiful to provide supplies — gloves, safety vests, trash bags, etc. — for local cleanups and serve lunch to volunteers.
Reports about the events, including number of volunteers and pounds of trash collected, are submitted to KAB and the data helps KEB in applying for grants with the state.
She said the Ward Rewards initiative is similar to KEB’s incentives program, which was launched in 2018 with a donation from Clean Harbors.
KEB called on city council members to organize cleanups in their respective wards for each quarter of the year and volunteer groups that participated and qualified for the cash incentives were each awarded $300.
Henry worked for years as a supervisor at Clean Harbors and Dan Roblee, general manager of Clean Harbors’ El Dorado facility, is also a member of KEB.
Clean Harbors announced that it could not fund the program in 2020 and would revisit the matter in its 2021 budget.
Further, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, KEB suspended some activities, including community cleanups, last year.
Keep the tradition going
“The Ward Rewards program is not a new invention. We’re just doing a little bit of tweaking,” Smith-Creer said.
Van Hook commended organizers of the Tony Henry Community Cleanup and said KEB will assist in any way possible.
In 2016, McGhee, Henry and former El Dorado City Council Member Kensel Spivey-Green teamed up for a Ward 3 cleanup. Spivey-Green previously represented Ward 3.
Once KEB launched its incentive program, volunteers for the Ward 3 cleanup signed up cash awards.
The cleanup became an annual event and after Henry died, the cleanup was named in his honor.
Spivey-Green, a longtime neighbor of Henry’s, and Mc-Ghee said they want to keep the tradition going.
“We want to honor that man. He was about cleaning up and building up the community. He gave his life serving this city and we cannot forget him,” said McGhee.
“He was still active a few weeks before he died. This brother was out there cleaning up and doing other things even when he didn’t feel like it,” he said.
Spivey-Green said volunteers may gather at one of five checkpoints that will be set up for the Tony Henry Community Cleanup to pick up supplies and for briefings about which streets to clean.
The checkpoints include Mattocks Park, Detroit and Sharp streets; Starlight Baptist Church, 1406 Detroit; St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 1018 Wilson St.; New Bethel Baptist Church, 800 S. Smith; and the site of the old Southside Elementary School, South Jackson and Pecan.
Spivey-Green said COVID-19 safety protocols for large gatherings will be in place.
She noted that several youth groups have already volunteered to participate and Smith-Creer said she has fielded offers to provide lunch for participants.
Organizers are also reaching out to businesses and organizations for sponsorships.
Spivey-Green and McGhee said plans are in the works for another Ward 3 community cleanup in March. The event will honor the late Jimmy Reed, who died in 2009.
Reed served on the El Dorado School Board and the El Dorado City Council.
For more information about or to volunteer for the Ward 3 cleanups, call Smith-Creer at 870-862-7911 or 870-315-0004; McGhee at 870-314-1441; Rucks at 870-312-6873; or Spivey-Green at 870-918-7674.
For additional information about or to join KEB, call Van Hook at 870-918-2706 or visit the group’s Facebook page.