KAB History

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In 1980, Vince Lobello was a loaned executive from Xerox, serving as a Special Assistant to Mayor Roy Ray for Economic and Community Development. The goal was to make Akron more attractive to new businesses and to improve the city’s quality of life. Mr. Lobello named the new program, designed to address roadside and public property litter and initiate beautification projects, Keep Akron Beautiful (KAB).

 

The litter collection crews were welfare recipients and court system community service-sentenced offenders. The first volunteer cleanup was kicked off with a symbolic "Clean Sweep" of Main Street, featuring the Mayor, prominent community leaders and local celebrities pushing brooms, followed by a citywide spring cleaning, supported by donations of goods and services from the local construction, restaurant, food and beverage industries. Mayor Roy Ray was aware of Keep America Beautiful, Inc. and with Vince Lobello’s help, along with the later stewardship of the first Executive Coordinator, Judith B. Isroff, Akron decided to create their own 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency.

 

Mrs. Isroff had written a letter to Mayor Ray offering her services as a volunteer. As a result of her strong ties to the Akron community and her dynamic spirit, she was tapped to plan, organize and lead the new agency. It was Mrs. Isroff’s tireless direction and creativity that spearheaded the fundraising necessary to grow the agency.

 

Judith Isroff knew that public land beautification needed to be addressed to return pride to the city which would establish a funding and volunteer base to build the future of the agency. So the Flowerscape program was introduced. Judith also attended a “Clean Communities Seminar” in Dayton.

 

While it was decided to remain independent until 1987, it was then that Keep Akron Beautiful joined the Keep America Beautiful, Inc. network. Judith, Vince and members of the City Planning Department wrote the first Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant, made possible by House Bill 361.  Keep Akron Beautiful became a Litter Control and Recycling Program, receiving annual funding for promoting and educating the public in these program areas for 25 years until the Litter Prevention & Recycling Division merged with the Ohio EPA. 

 

Mr. Lobello was a founding member of the Board of Trustees and remains active with the organization as an Ex-officio member. Paula Davis served as President & CEO from 1988-2014. Jacqui Flaherty- Ricchiuti, the agency's previous Project Manager, now serves at Executive Director. 

 

Litter Programming

Akron’s approach to the litter problem is unique in that it places full responsibility for planning and program implementation in the hands of a single nonprofit agency. Keep Akron Beautiful's litter programming includes such activities as collecting litter from Akron’s expressways, roadsides and parks on a year-round basis and referring infractions to police officers for litter law enforcement. Keep Akron Beautiful also collects illegal dumping off of public lands with their court referred community sentenced crews who work daily with the agency’s Supervisors. The agency also enlists an army of volunteers to do a citywide house-cleaning during the annual Clean Up Akron Month - April, which coincides with the Keep America Beautiful, Inc’s Great American Cleanup™ litter prevention public awareness campaign.

 

Adopt-A-Site

Undoubtedly, the most innovative programming has been in the area of beautification. In 1982, KAB initiated its Flowerscape program that involves the planting and maintenance of flowerbeds in high-visibility areas in and adjacent to downtown Akron. That popular beautification program, combined with the volunteer oriented Adopt-A-Site program in Akron’s neighborhoods, has had a remarkable impact upon the community.

 

Arbor Day

From the very first Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Recycling & Litter Prevention grant, Keep Akron Beautiful had retained an Education Specialist under contract from the Akron Public Schools. This employee spent her time in the public, private and charter classrooms of Akron teaching hands-on modules about solid waste management topics, non-point source pollution, graffiti prevention and energy efficiency. This well-respected educator, who retired from teaching, continued to conduct the annual Arbor Day observance with all fourth grade classes in the city until her retirement from Keep Akron Beautiful in 2016.

 

Graffiti Removal Services

In 2008, the agency assumed the responsibility for eradicating graffiti from public property with the creation of a sodium bicarbonate blasting system. Complaints come to the agency through the 3-1-1 customer service request system with the goal of eradicating the public graffiti as soon as possible. The agency also offers a service to eradicate graffiti for private property victims at a nominal fee.

 

Private Property Cleanups

The agency no longer receives consistent state funding, so the City of Akron has provided a subsidy in the form of a street assessment. Over the years the agency has been asked to take on contracts that are within the agency’s stated mission of litter prevention and collection, public beautification, and environmental education. KAB is currently performing services for the City of Akron Service, City of Akron Engineering Departments, and the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority.

 

The Summit of Sustainability Awards

In 2007, Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic asked Keep Akron Beautiful to facilitate the creation of a Greenprint for Akron sustainability plan. The Board of Directors approved the expansion of the agency’s mission. Following strategic planning and additions to the Board and staff, they proceeded to work with the Green Ribbon Panel of city managers to draft a plan for the government and the community to reduce greenhouse gases and conserve natural resources. This was in direct response to the Mayor signing the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement. As members of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, the city has completed a greenhouse gas emissions baseline survey for 2005 and 2009. President & CEO, Paula Davis, then led the initiative to engage the community in sustainability planning by forming a partnership with the city, the County of Summit, ReWorks and the Greater Akron Chamber to recognize and reward area businesses, nonprofits, schools, organization and government entities who are green trailblazers with the annual Summit of Sustainability Awards program. The program was facilitated by the agency until 2016.

 

KAB Community Loaned Out Trailers

The collaboration for green spaces with Dominion East Ohio and Charter One Foundation added a new Keep Akron Beautiful program designed to tackle the blight through cleanups and the transformation of vacant and abandoned lots. Volunteers can book the free use of the two KAB trailers, Community Pride Trailer and Litter and Illegal Dump Cleanup Trailer for their school improvement, their installation of a community garden or to remove a neighborhood eyesore for up to three days. Inside one trailer is landscape equipment, from work gloves to lawn mowers and tree trimmers! The newest trailer is filled with supplies for big litter and illegal dump cleanups.

 

For more on Keep Akron Beautiful Programming, visit our At-A-Glance page.

 

Keep Akron Beautiful Honors:

 

2015 Keep Akron Beautiful Executive Director, CEO Jacqui Flaherty-Ricchiuti recognized by 30 for the Future

2014 Keep Akron Beautiful was a John F. & Betty Seiberling Award Winner from The Portage Trail Sierra Club

2014 Keep Ohio Beautiful Community Award (Category 150,001 and up)

2014 Keep Ohio Beautiful Student of the Year award, Nalee Vang 2014 Intern

2014 Keep America Beautiful Second Place Affiliate (600+) and Storytelling* awards

2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 President’s Circle Award Winner – Keep America Beautiful, Inc. 

2013 Keep Ohio Beautiful Volunteer of the Year, Eric Jones & Student of the Year, Helen Dauka

2013 Paula Davis, President & CEO, received the Sue Smith Professional Leadership Award at the 60th anniversary conference of Keep America Beautiful, Inc.

Numerous awards for Outstanding Sponsor Support during The Great American Cleanup ™, most recently in 2006 for Outstanding Sponsor Support for The Great American Cleanup™ with Bridgestone/Firestone.  In past years the award has been won for partnerships with Pepsi-Cola, Yard- 

Vac by MTD, Waste Management, and Motrin-IB.

2011 Keep Ohio Beautiful State Program Winner for America Recycles Day

2003 America In Bloom, First Place Winner for Population Category 100,001-300,000

2002 America In Bloom, Second Place Winner for Population Category 100,001-300,000

2001 Distinguished Service Citation, Keep America Beautiful System Awards (by population category)

2001 Rogers Award for Local Television Advertising-Keep America Beautiful, Inc.

1995, 1996 Keep Ohio Beautiful Category II Award Winner

1994 Keep America Beautiful System Awards Program Finalist

1994 Take Pride, Ohio! Keep Ohio Beautiful Category II Award Winner-Build America Beautiful Pilot Program

Second Place Award in the 1991 Keep America Beautiful System Awards (by population category) 

*Storytelling Award is in recogition for telling the KAB story through digital channels (blogs, social media, etc)