Don Yarbrough is hard at work, in more ways than one.
The progenitor of the Weald Workers of Lamar County not only is walking around picking up trash in an effort to clean up, he’s also making sure Weald Workers is OK on the backend, filing paperwork so it is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the state and federal governments.
“We’ve got a two-year business plan right now,” Yarbrough said, “and I’m doing all the budget stuff I need to do for grants.”
For the past several years, Yarbrough has been cleaning up the Trail de Paris, sometimes with help and often without, graduating from a normal trash bag to giant, 42-gallon construction trash bags. The group’s name “Weald” comes from the old English language meaning “the forest” or “the wilds,” and the goal of the cleanup is to keep the wild enjoyable and clear from human debris.
“No other organization (in Lamar County) does what we do,” Yarbrough said. “I want to empower people. Each individual may just be a drop in the bucket, but every drop counts.”
He said that by cleaning up, the organization helps everyone take pride in their community and amenities. The organization has branched out from just cleaning the trail to cleaning roadways and other areas. He said they do more than just the right of way, pushing through into the underbrush, brambles and woods to get all the trash.
This past week, the group cleaned up a spot on Northwest Graham Street with the help of City Councilman Reginald B. Hughes. Signature Care Emergency Center donated water and granola bars to support the group.
The group had its nonprofit status with the state approved recently and participated in the city’s annual Tree Giveaway and Electronics Recycling event, helping accept recyclable materials and hand out hardwood trees.
Weald Workers is volunteer-based, Yarbrough said, but with the help of grants and private donations, he soon hopes it can do contract labor and day labor. He already has a relationship with the Paris sanitation department, including an agreement for them to pick up the trash collected at a designated spot on its routes. He wants to push for the City of Paris to offer individual recycling bins as well, not just the giant ones across from Paris Junior College on Collegiate Street, but blue bins for each home and business.
“Recycling is more convenient and profitable for citizens,” he said, adding the recycling center at Reno could benefit the City of Paris as well if services were expanded, since easier access to recycling makes it easier for people to use the service in a self-reinforcing cycle.
He also wants grocery stores to consider reverse-vending recycling machines, where people drop off their recycling, are issued a receipt from the machine, and then can go into the store and redeem a voucher.
“It’s not going to solve the problem 100%, but it will help,” Yarbrough said.