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  • Writer's pictureKeep Yankton Beautiful

KYB: A Year in Review

As I settled down to summarize 2020, I sought inspiration from my 2019 wrap-up of KYB events and endeavors. Sporting the fresh title of executive director at the time, last year’s recap overflowed with optimism, including my self-appointed goal for 2020: to remind myself that “just because I haven’t done something before doesn’t mean I can’t do it!” Upon reading this, I chuckled to myself—my naïve goal for 2020 had unwittingly become a daily mantra for me, for friends and family, and nearly everyone I know. Work from home? We did it. Tend to and educate our children while working from home? Done. Forgo months of church? And holiday dinners? Reluctantly, but we did. Doing what we had never done before quickly became 2020’s theme.

But before all that, 2020 started off just as expected, with all the promise of new beginnings and a blank calendar of possibilities. Since KYB’s inception 20 years ago, April has always included our Great American Cleanup. But, with Covid-19 restrictions newly in place, we had to postpone our cleanup—an unprecedented decision after two decades. Our pre-pandemic plans to host an Earth & Arbor Day Extravaganza also came to a swift end. Even so, we celebrated Arbor Day in the most fitting manner: by giving the gift of trees! Thanks to a grant received by Keep America Beautiful and the UPS Foundation, we provided 20 homeowners with $100 tree vouchers to Yankton Nursery. We were also able to help revive the tree population in Yankton parks and rights-of-way after the culling of ash trees due to the impending invasion of the emerald ash borer. Lisa Kortan, a KYB board member and the City Horticulturist, masterfully selected and planted a beautiful variety of trees, from Quaking aspen to Sunburst locust, River birch to Black Hills spruce, Kentucky coffeetree and Valley Forge elm.

While trees were being planted all over Yankton, we spent the dog days of summer making plans for a new beautification project at the Marne Creek West Greenway. Near the pooch park and the community garden, we will soon be adding a rest stop along the bike trail with a bench, trash receptacle, and drought-resistant flowers and shrubs, all surrounded by stone outcropping and a trio of pear trees. Thanks to the support from the Eide family, Explorers Credit Union, and Hydro, this project will be completed in Spring 2021!

The 8th month of the year traditionally hosts Yankton’s biggest weekend celebration and the KYB cult-favorite event: The Parade Route Cleanup. We have postponed our enthusiasm in tandem with the 37th annual Riverboat Days, and we eagerly await the opportunity to collect your parade route rubbish on August 21, 2021! Until then, and always, we encourage you all to be attentive to the daily debris that seems to haunt our streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and green spaces. This fall, the KYB board got the itch to take litter duty up a notch. Equipped with our usual supply of bags and gloves—and with the new addition of masks—we were at last able to host our Great American Cleanup on the 26th of September. As usual, we have you, the people of Yankton, to thank for the success of this event.

October is traditionally the month of chrysanthemums and hazardous waste. On the first day of October, KYB board members and volunteers gathered downtown and filled the 22 white planters along Walnut Street with mums, decorative kale, and cheery little pumpkins. Nothing says “fall” like planters full of purple hues, autumnal reds, shades of orange, and festive yellows! Even in the midst of our beautification project, we still had recycling on our minds—once removed, the pumpkins made their way to a Nebraska pig farm, where they were upcycled into bacon. Can you imagine a better outcome for a pile of frosty pumpkins?! We’re grateful to Diane’s Greenhouse for donating the kale and pumpkins and indebted to one of our very own board members who sponsored the mums for this year’s project.

In addition to our fall mum project, October has historically found us joining forces with the City for the Household Hazardous Waste Event; unfortunately, 2020’s event was canceled. While we weren’t able to help safely dispose of all the explosive, corrosive, toxic, and flammable items in your home, October still allowed for us to help rid your house of pernicious plastic bags. On October 14, we kicked off our month-long Plastic Bag Recycling Drive in conjunction with America Recycles Day (ARD), an initiative put forth by Keep America Beautiful, and celebrated annually on November 15. Last year, after hauling thousands of pounds of denim around Yankton for ARD, I was hoping for something lighter for 2020. Thanks to an excellent partnership with Hydro of Yankton, we were able to host our city-wide Plastic Bag Recycling Drive and distribute reusable totes to all participants. With help from our drop off locations, Explorers Credit Union, and Kopetsky’s Ace Hardware, in conjunction with the Hefty® EnergyBag® Program, Yankton residents rid their homes of excess plastic bags, with the happy knowledge these bags would miss out on an eternity of decomposing in a landfill. Events like these remind me that the success of our endeavors is contingent on the people of Yankton; thank you all for your contributions!

Grateful as we were for the opportunity to celebrate America Recycles Day in a socially distant way with our bag drive, we were also saddened to cancel our annual Gently Used Toy Drive, a partner event with the City of Yankton. We are hopeful 2021 allows us to resume the drive and recycle previously owned toys back into the community once again. But with one opportunity aside, another was placed before us: the chance to take on the Adopt-A-Pot project! On the 22nd of November, KYB board members and volunteers set to work assembling the 22 festive planters in Yankton’s Meridian District. This project was made possible by local individuals and businesses who “adopted” the pots—thank you for helping us Keep Yankton Beautiful!

Our final hurrah for 2020 was participating in the Yankton Holiday Festival of Lights. I went full-on Clark Griswold, with the roof of my little red car laden with Christmas boxes and surrounded by all forms of glitzy holiday pizzaz. With its virtual tree lighting, fireworks on the bridge, and an impressive array of lighted vehicles, it was another beautiful parade, and a joy to participate in. Kudos to Brittany LaCroix and the City of Yankton for bringing our community a much-needed dose of holiday cheer in a safe and socially distant environment!

In sum—sure, 2020 had a few more snags than our last trip around the sun, and I, along with the rest of the world, did my share of things I had never done before. But for all that, I cannot bring myself to enumerate our defeats; for every door that was shut, another was opened. KYB lives on. I’m still proudly at the helm of this organization, and with Amy Bailey, Tom Nelson, Kate Schramm, Nikki LaCroix, Al Koliner, Lisa Kortan, Cindy Filips, Joseph Tielke, and Jessica Anderson to back me up on the board, we can survive whatever 2021 has coming for us. Bring it!

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