One city, over 25,000 volunteers and 500 community improvement projects. Each year, for the last three decades, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Inc. makes these numbers come to life. Though they only tell part of the story.
Cities are not defined by buildings that fill the skyline or their number of professional sports teams. Cities are not defined by national perception either. Cities, like Indianapolis, are defined by their people. The people who live, eat, work and play week in and week out. It is about more than pride, cities rely on real action and involvement. Indianapolis is thriving because of this, highlighted by its growth in numbers and how those numbers are positively changing the city.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Inc.
One organization in particular, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Inc. (KIB), has grown into a hub for community involvement. Diverse communities, both young and old, have gotten their hands dirty to literally grow their neighborhoods and create vibrant public places. Whether it is simply planting a tree or painting murals on the sides of huge bare walls, the nonprofit organization keeps expanding its influence with every project they take on. Founded in 1976, the award-winning affiliate of Keeping America Beautiful has attracted an almost incalculable number of volunteers, many simply trying to make Indianapolis an even better place to live.
“KIB has helped its neighbors plant more than 40,000 trees, create numerous community pocket parks, restored acres of natural habitat, and strengthened Indianapolis through volunteer-led initiatives that engage more than 25,000 volunteers annually,” said Ashlee Wilson Fujawa, director of public relations. “We accomplish these lofty goals by engaging diverse communities through our hands-on programs and initiatives to create vibrant public places, helping people and nature thrive.”
Part of KIB’s success can be attributed to its creativeness and innovation. From youth programming to first-of-its-kind projects, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful has transformed the city in a variety of unique ways.
Over the course of this summer, a group of over 75 high school students are taking on an unusual job. They will work as part of the Youth Tree Team, a select group of teens that help maintain trees in Indianapolis. The program helps connect young people to green spaces and shows how they can be used to bring a sense of community and beauty to urban areas. Their hard work is rewarded with an hourly wage, an annual camping trip and professional networking, but a sense of community and teamwork have proven to be the biggest takeaways.
The organization’s latest venture, an interactive, outdoor library, is the first of its kind in Indy. Collaborating with other community organizations, schools and businesses, KIB will transform community green spaces along bike ways into outdoor libraries on Saturday, August 15. Participants will receive a map of local parks and green spaces. Every stop labeled, from Windsor Park to Bates-Hendricks, will feature a different literary activity that highlights that specific location. Musicians, local artists and local authors will curate the various activities and stamp KIB library cards. The self-guided bike tour is meant to strengthen the connection between people and nature, as well as inspire creativity.
A Green Office
When it comes to practicing what you preach, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful fits the billing. Relocating and combing through both their office and warehouse has helped reduce waste and increase energy efficiency. Their workflow has become seamless, while drive time, landscaping costs and utility bills have all been dramatically reduced. The building features a parking lot and rain gardens that capture storm water and keep it from entering treatment centers, a white reflective roof that reduces energy costs and waterless urinals that save thousands of gallons of water. The efforts have not gone unnoticed, receiving”Gold” certification by the US Green Building Council. It is the first civic nonprofit to be honored in such a manner in Indiana.
Keeping Indianapolis Beautiful
Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, KIB has certainly met its goal of keeping Indianapolis beautiful. Simply taking a look around one of many neighborhoods will confirm this. Its reputation and group of long standing volunteers have the organization set up to make even more of an impact in 2016 and beyond. Continuing to build a sense of community, from neighbor to neighbor and block to block, will maximize its impact. The more people that get on board, the more of the city that will benefit.
“KIB has numerous ways to support our mission of helping people and nature thrive. You can donate to support the creation of a community green space, tree planting our neighborhood cleanup. You can sign up on our website to volunteer at an upcoming project. Or you can adopt your block, and serve as a block captain with KIB’s support—to engage your neighbors and help keep your community clean,” said Wilson Fujawa.