Students picking up debris from the creek

What a wonderful thing it is when young adults take charge of the health of their community. Last Tuesday about seventy college students from Missouri State University gathered downtown in the middle of the school day. The goal was not to socialize or to skip class, although both outcomes were almost certainly realized along the way. The aim of these fraternity and sorority brothers and sisters was to leave a positive impact upon our dear urban stream, Jordan Creek. Two hours of sweat and hard work yielded over fifty great big bags of refuse pulled from the rippling waters and staged for pickup by the city’s trucks. What touched me was not just the camaraderie or the passion for volunteerism. It was the willingness to work without a great deal of encouragement.

Running from one spot to the next, and talking with Kellie Herman, my partner in the days activity from James River Basin Partnership, I was unable to provide real-time feedback and prodding to the crew. Yet, they continued to fill the bags. The creek was heavily littered, and the water was cloudy and dull from the week’s rain and runoff. Yet, they stooped to remove the smallest scraps from its floodplain. The sky was cloudy, and the air cool. Yet, they donned their sunglasses and work gloves and behaved as if the sun shone brightly and welcomed them into the outdoors. Though a few came to ask about where to go next or what to do, which is to be expected from student and professional alike, the majority kept head down, eyes scanning for the next morsel to feed the hungry trash sac. Then, at the agreed upon time, they dispersed, returning to campus and looking forward to the evening’s events. Without a word, or a plea for acclamation; without a pat on the back, or a bid for recognition they simply packed up and left. To say I was impressed is unjust. I admired their willingness to contribute their time and energy, regardless of their motivation.

I am grateful for the work of these young people and the groups that will surely come after them. I only hope that their dedication and willingness to pursue these altruistic endeavors is contagious and inheritable for those brought up under them. We surely have a great deal to look forward to and a reason for hope as this cohort of students become the professionals and policy makers, the servants and helpers, of tomorrow. A workday creek cleanup is an inspiring endeavor and I urge anyone who can to participate in one (or a few!).

Rob Hunt, Watershed Center Coordinator

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