Clean and Beautiful honors community pride

DULUTH - Jim Kraus helps pick up litter and paint over graffiti, but the Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful board member said he was still surprised to be named the organization's volunteer of the year.

"I'm humbled to accept this," the seven-year board member said. "There are lots of others I would have chosen over me. I'm a little overwhelmed."

Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful honored its community leaders in an awards ceremony Friday, thanking cities, businesses and individuals for their work teaching, recycling and enforcing laws that encourage people to take care of the environment and take pride in the community.

The festivities continued without Connie Wiggins, the group's director, who spent the evening ill in a hotel room, and the Legacy Award winner, who could not make the 27th annual dinner.

Honorees at the Gwinnett Place Marriott included Sgt. David Spell, who won the enforcement award, Daryl Knight, the recipient of the first annual scholarship for environmental studies at Georgia Gwinnett College and McKendree Elementary School, which won the environmental award.

The city of Berkeley Lake was named the recycler of the year, while Jordan, Jones and Goulding was recognized with the Howard Allen Business and Industry Award. The Gwinnett Daily Post was honored with the Neighborhood Pride Award.

In honoring the recipients, Board member Mary Root and Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Chairman Jim Steele praised the organization, which intends, in part, to teach residents about the importance of sustaining the environment.

"Personal responsibility and daily effort helps this community," he said. "It means a safer, healthier, cleaner and more livable community. Your actions impact daily lives and continue to impact future generations."

Throughout the evening, Steele complimented Gwinnett residents on the pride they have in the county and discussed the thousands of volunteers who have helped beautify Gwinnett. More than 140,000 volunteers donated 1.1 million hours of time, he said.

"Pride is something some communities have, and some communities don't, and ours shows," Steele said. "Visible evidence of community pride is an indicator of success."

Charles Bannister, chairman of the county's board of commissioners, said Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful has been good for the county in terms of the decreasing amount of graffiti found on walls, the number of items that are recycled and the work the group will be doing to investigate solid waste management in Gwinnett.

Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful also addresses issues of revitalization and the quality of life, he said, in announcing that the group would lead the way in the county's attempt to take on the governor's Clean Community Challenge.

"Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful has been, is, and will continue to be good for Gwinnett County," Bannister said. "We're here this evening to celebrate and dine with community heroes."