By Morgan Bryce
Educating citizens on the importance of sustaining a clean and safe city through the methods of recycling, litter control and beautification projects is the goal of Keep Opelika Beautiful Inc., which celebrated its 20th birthday last week.
Beginning as a Saturday-morning volunteer project founded by concerned Opelikians Shirley Flora and Dr. Robert Patton in response to a disheveled downtown area, KOB became a city-wide movement that drew people from all walks of life, united with a common goal of restoring the city to its former glory.
“The early turnout was unbelievable. That first Saturday morning, we had 400-plus adults … I just stopped counting after that,” Flora said.
KOB became a certified member of Keep America Beautiful in 1997, a national organization now including more than 620 community affiliates.
Following Flora’s retirement in 2007, Opelika native Tipi Colley Miller took over as KOB’s new director.
By staying in touch with the latest trends in technology and communication, Miller said she could tap into the city’s younger population, which has played a vital role in the organization’s continual growth and success under her leadership.
“When I took over, I really wanted to get in with younger adults … I’m 37, and the generations below me serve very different than my parents or grandparent’s generation did. I’ve really tried to bust into social media and get our information in just a different way,” Miller said. “It’s the same methods that it’s always been, it’s just the way we deliver it that has changed.”
In 2017, the organization is more involved than ever before, and in addition to its mainstay annual programs like Garden in the Park and Citywide Cleanup Day, there are new events for recycling used electronics and document shredding.
“I think we’ve tried to evolve with what the community has asked us to do,” Miller said.
Besides making Opelika a cleaner and safer place to live, KOB has created a culture of giving, greater sense of civic responsibility, and welcoming place for new businesses and industries, according to Flora.
“The community came together,” Flora said, speaking of KOB’s impact. “People began to donate their time and efforts … besides being clean and taking care of our environment, that was the most beautiful sign, was that all of a sudden, we had a united community taking care of the environment.”
Miller said she most appreciates the volunteers who help make KOB a viable organization.
“I am the only employee, as the director of the organization, but it only functions because of the volunteers. I can’t be out there like our Adopt-A-Mile groups … this is truly a volunteer organization,” Miller said. “I think that’s huge and says a lot about the community.”
Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller attributes much of downtown and the rest of the city’s growth, development and beautification to the efforts of KOB.
“Keep Opelika Beautiful is a terrific organization and has been for a long time. I’m grateful that Shirley Flora got this started 20 years ago and there is no question our community looks much better because of their efforts,” Fuller said. “Tipi Miller and the current volunteer leadership have taken it to a higher level and I, along with the city council, appreciate their work.”
For more information on KOB or to volunteer, call (334) 749-4970, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.