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By Gus Bode

Event marks start of Trees Across America Project

Friday’s rain subsided long enough for students and staff from the Boys & Girls Club of Carbondale stay dry while they picked up trash and planted a tree in recognition of what was an otherwise wet Arbor Day.

The event, which was sponsored by the club along with the SIUC College of Mass Communication and Media Arts and WSIU Public Television, was an opportunity for students from the club to learn about ecology and get involved in the community through the trash cleanup and planting of the young crabapple tree donated to the club by Anna’s nursery in Cobden.

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Nearly 75 children along with about 15 volunteers and staff gathered outside the club, located at 250 N. Springer St. to listen to City Councilwoman Sheila Simon and Keep Carbondale Beautiful director Tiffany Heil talk about the importance of trees in the community and motivate the students before the trash pickup.

Volunteers and staff members armed each of the students with a trash bag before breaking them up into groups. Each group focused on cleaning a certain street in a two-block radius around the club.

Heil said Keep Carbondale Beautiful sponsors numerous trash pickups throughout the year in different parts of the city with different groups and wanted to specially reserve the area around the club for the children at the club to clean.

“We are very supportive of getting the kids involved in trash pickup, so we wanted to leave this neighborhood for the kids to do,” Heil said.

Club director Randy Osborne led a group of five students along Springer Street. Osborne said this is the first opportunity the club has had to get the children involved in the community since its opening in September 2004.

“We wanted an event that got the kids out to do some community service,” Osborne said. “That’s one of the goals of the club.”

One of the students in Osborne’s group was 11-year-old Ben Chametzky of Carbondale. Unlike the rest of the students in his group, Chametzky actually lived in the neighborhood he was helping to clean up. Chametzky said although he didn’t necessarily think picking up trash was fun, he was glad to be able to help clean up his community.

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“I think it’s in good spirit, but it’s not really a fun kind of fun like the kids have in the club,” Chametzky said. “But I think it is a good way to get out of the basement down there in the club and do something good with our time anyway.”

The event was not only an effort to clean up the area, but it was also the official start of project the club will be participating in called Trees Across America. Through the project, students at the club will be learning about ecology in southern Illinois with an emphasis on trees.

Project team leader Bryan Gottschalk said the goal of the project is raise the awareness of students at the club of the abundance of trees and forests in the area and encourage them to become good stewards of the environment.

“It’s a brand-new program,” Gottschalk said. “Nobody else has done this before. We are going to get the kids involved in the ecology end of the area.”

Gottschalk said the staff will be teaching students about the trees throughout the region using web resources and television programs from PBS. He said the final goal of the project is to have the students take video from the Shawnee National Forrest and make a virtual tour to put online for Boys & Girls Club organizations in other cities to see.

“We eventually want the kids to learn enough about ecology that they cam teach kids in other cities,” Gottschalk said. “Not every community has the natural resources that we have here.”

To fund the project, WSIU received a $10,000 grant from the National Center for Outreach. WSIU outreach coordinator Beth Spezia said the money will be used mostly for the purchase of educational programming on PBS that teaches kids about ecology and trees. Additionally, PBS will have web resources that will allow the kids to get a more hands on education about not only ecology but also technology.

“They are going to learn media tools as well as ecology,” Spezia said.

Spezia said WSIU was glad to get involved with the Boys & Girls Club because the partnership gives the students resources they wouldn’t normally have. She said the program is an investment in the future.

“This is going to strengthen the entire community,” Spezia said. “It’s going to be wonderful for the future of these children.”

Reporter William Ford can be reached at

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