In the Community: Spotlight on SOLVE

NW Natural nonprofit Programs of Focus 2017-2019

 

Mobilizing volunteers to keep Oregon green and clean

When Oregonians volunteer with SOLVE they become hands-on stewards of the state. Cleaning litter from beaches, planting trees and removing invasive plants are just a few of the ways SOLVE volunteers roll up their sleeves to make a visible difference.

Launched in 1969 by Tom McCall, Oregon’s visionary governor, SOLVE reaches across the state to keep it clean, green and beautiful. Each year, 35,000 volunteers participate in nearly 750 cleanup projects that bring together individuals, communities, businesses, families, friends and neighbors.

SOLVE volunteers collected approximately 56,000 pounds of litter and debris along the Oregon coast on April 1. Photo by Darren Utt, SeeSaw.
SOLVE volunteers collected approximately 56,000 pounds of litter and debris along the Oregon coast on April 1. Photo by Darren Utt, SeeSaw.

A small Portland-based staff manages the activities with the support of volunteer captains and coordinators across Oregon. SOLVE also provides guidance, supplies and trash-removal services for people and communities who organize their own events.

“The work isn’t glamorous – but it’s very enjoyable and social,” said Kris Carico, SOLVE’s development director. “You get to be outside in a beautiful place and meet new people. Plus, you’re doing something where you can see a difference immediately.”

Cigarette butts are the most prevalent form of litter on Earth, according to the Ocean Conservancy.
Cigarette butts are the most prevalent form of litter on Earth, according to the Ocean Conservancy.

Carico has witnessed firsthand how having fun transforms even reluctant volunteers into enthusiastic contributors. That happened with a boys’ high school basketball team that participated in a beach cleanup. The coach was excited – but the team less so. After filling a few large trash bags with debris – then watching the pile of bagged debris grow – the boys were all smiles and excited to see the fruits of their labor.

The fun and excitement that a SOLVE cleanup creates is infectious. SOLVE’s annual Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup attracts thousands of volunteers up and down the Oregon coast, and there can easily be 400-500 people in one spot on a beach. It’s not unusual for others – including tourists – to spontaneously join in because the energy is so good. “It feels like a movement,” Carico said.

There are no age restrictions for volunteers: people of all ages and abilities can participate and contribute. Toddlers who show up with parents are given a small toy bucket and shovel, while senior citizens and those with disabilities are assigned tasks that suit their abilities.

SOLVE is one of NW Natural’s five nonprofit Programs of Focus for 2017-2019. The organization will receive $35,000 per year for three years, plus in-kind resources and volunteer support from NW Natural employees.

» SOLVE has a huge impact on keeping Oregon clean. Last year’s Beach and River Cleanup collected 35 tons of trash in one day. Would you like to help? Visit SOLVE to sign up for an event, become a leader or coordinator, or organize your own activity with SOLVE’s support.