WAXAHACHIE, TX — Being a concerned citizen is the main qualification needed for the Adopt-a-Block program. The idea for adopting a block originated with Jim Kauffman, a resident who is centrally located in Waxahachie. For the program to find success, he knew it had to reach from east to west. He didn’t reinvent the wheel; he raised awareness.
Educating those who were interested was half the battle. Jim accomplished this by enlisting others to pay it forward, so to speak. “I’m the secretary for the Interdenominational Ministerial Action Team,” said Brenda Sexton, a lifelong resident of the east side. “He came to one of our meetings.”
This meeting ignited a fire in Brenda that no longer stopped with just the area bordering her home. “I had already been taking care of a large portion of Dunlap, because I didn’t want to sit on my porch and see trash,” Brenda said. “I thought Adopt-a-Block was a great idea, so I began asking others on my street for some help.”
The west side of town was also in the early stages of making a difference. “Jim approached me and wanted me to help speak out to other groups about the program,” Susie Sambell said. “I asked, ‘Why me? What makes me special to promote this?’”
Susie soon found out that being a caring citizen was the only real role anyone needed in order to implement the Adopt-a- Block mentality into their own immediate neighborhoods. “We all have choices. The city can’t possibly pick up all the trash, so it’s up to us to help,” she stated. “The beauty of the program is that it doesn’t take a lot of training to pick up trash, it just takes a little time and a lot of caring.”
Brenda and Susie didn’t waste any time educating those in their realm of influence. After Brenda successfully got other homeowners on her street involved, she decided it was time to branch out. She moved on to Wyatt, Ross, Griffin and Graham streets. “Once the initial cleanup was complete, it’s been easy to keep these areas litter-free,” Brenda said, explaining that she continues to use her own street, Dunlap, as the example to follow. “In the beginning, people were getting upset. They’d get the area cleaned up, but the mess seemed to quickly return. I told them that Rome wasn’t built in a day, so we couldn’t get discouraged.”
Susie emphasized keeping Waxahachie clean would be much easier if people would be responsible for their trash. “If we really want to get at the root of the problem,” she explained, “we need to reduce, reuse and recycle.” After doing some research on the Don’t Mess With Texas Web site, Susie learned that trash coming from a moving vehicle is a large source of littering. Concerned citizens can write down the date, time and place of the offense, as well as the license plate number and model of the vehicle and send it to the Don’t Mess With Texas Web site.
“Violators will receive a letter and a Don’t Mess With Texas litter bag. Littering is against the law. The first offense can be a fine up to $500,” Susie added. “Repeat offenders can pay up to $2,000 and spend up to 180 days in jail.” When hauling trash in a pickup truck, the bed must have proper covering. And it’s considered illegal dumping if the trash thrown out weighs more than five pounds, which means an even stiffer fine.
Before the program could be implemented, a new city ordinance had to be addressed pertaining to outside storage within Waxahachie city limits. Both women agree that Jim was instrumental in seeing the ordinance come to fruition. “Jim basically wrote it,” Susie said. “The city needed to be on board with the big stuff before picking up the little stuff would make a difference.”
“It’s up to us as concerned citizens to call the city when we see the ordinance is being broken or ignored,” Brenda said.
“People need to look outward,” Susie added. “We need to take ownership of our city. It’s important to educate the community, so they understand the block really belongs to those who live on it.”
When people see the ordinance being ignored or broken, Brenda and Susie encourage them to call the City Health Department, “which they can do anonymously,” Susie said. “The level of need is only known when we report it.”
As stated on their list of safety tips, the Adopt-a-Block program promotes responsible behavior and a cleaner, more attractive city. Everyone who participates in the program is asked to always keep this particular goal in mind when conducting cleanups. Some of the things you can do to fulfill this goal is stay on the right-of-way, making sure to face traffic, whether you are alone or with a group. Wear bright colored, protective clothing, gloves and hard soled shoes. And work in fair weather during daylight hours.
What not to do can be based on common sense. Construction or maintenance sites are off limits. If the object that needs to be picked up appears hazardous, such as firearms, explosives, propane cylinders and drug-related paraphernalia, you need to contact the City Health Department immediately. And it’s so important not to distract passing drivers or other volunteers. Safety, along with education, goes hand- in-hand when actively working the program.
Brenda loves the east side of town just as much as Susie loves the west side. Their dedication to the program is apparent as you drive down their respective blocks and see what’s missing. “The litter is missing,” Brenda smiled. “Once you see how beautiful the neighborhoods can be, it’s easy to get in a routine of picking the trash up whenever you see it.”
“People are always walking their dogs,” Susie said. “How hard would it be to pick up the trash you see instead of just walking by it?”
Caring is synonymous with effort. Brenda continues to pray that God will give her the strength, patience and understanding she needs with the continual cleanup efforts in and around her community. She’s learned firsthand what it means to give to others. “Doing and giving to others brings blessings,” she explained. “I keep the vacant lot across the street from my house picked up.”
The private school on the other side of the lot did a class project, and Brenda, because of her effort to keep the east side litter free, was the proud recipient. “They gave me the gift of a flower garden in my front yard,” she beamed. “This is my little piece of Waxahachie, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other.”
Editor’s Note: For more information, visit www.waxhachie.com or call the City Health Department at (972) 937-7330 to report an ordinance offense.