ROCK — During this time of uncertainty and unrest, the daily news can be disheartening. In Mercer County, though, a local civic group is providing a bright spot by giving back to the community.
“Rock WV Community Friends and Neighbors” has become vital to the area by participating in the state’s Adopt-A-Highway Program (AAH). A free litter cleanup program, AAH is a community-based program encouraging volunteers to donate their time and energy by adopting a stretch of road to clean up at least twice a year. It is co-sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s (WVDEP) Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan (REAP) and the West Virginia Division of Highways.
Linda Augustosky, a recently retired postal worker, is the group’s founding member. A lifelong resident of Rock, Augustosky has been participating in local cleanups for years before starting her own AAH group. She is also a prominent figure in the county-wide “Love Where You Live Campaign for Mercer County. Keep Mercer County Clean” group, which is assisted by REAP’s Make It Shine program and is what prompted Augustosky to start the AAH group.
“I love my community and hated to see all the litter along the roads, so I decided to get up and do something about it,” said Augustosky when asked why she started the group.
Rock WV Community Friends and Neighbors has cleaned up over 1 ½ tons of litter from their three-mile stretch of highway this past year. According to Augustosky, volunteers come from all over the county to assist in her road cleanup, including the Bramwell Volunteer Fire Department.
The AAH program is free and provides all the supplies needed to conduct a cleanup, such as bags, litter-getters, gloves, vests and “litter cleanup” roadside warning signs.
REAP, whose slogan is “Keeping West Virginia Clean and Green,” provides resources for multiple litter and pollution prevention programs, as well as recycling grants.
“All you have to do is fill out an application and the supplies are free, and you can pick them up at your county garage,” said Augustosky.
To raise awareness of their cleanups and share the benefits of keeping the state clean, Augustosky started her own Facebook page - Rock West Virginia Community Friends and Neighbors. She welcomes anyone to visit the page to see the work they have done.
Like most AAH groups, Augustosky feels it is extremely important to get the younger generation involved in the program. The AAH program is for volunteers 12 and older, so she often goes to schools to talk to children about the litter problem in West Virginia and what they can do to make it better. Augustosky successfully recruited her nephew and other younger members of the community to get involved and they proudly take part in cleanups.
“If you can get young people to come clean a section of road, they will never throw out a single piece of trash and they’ll throw it in a trash can where it belongs,” she said.
Augustosky added that the “sense of accomplishment in helping your community and getting the younger generation involved” are the most rewarding parts of participating in the AAH program.
Augustosky feels that lack of respect for the environment is one of the main reasons people litter and she wants to instill a sense of pride in her community.
“I think the Adopt A Highway program helps with this by putting up signs along adopted routes,” she said. “Groups get to choose what they want on their sign, and I feel a sense of pride and responsibility for our section of road when I see our communities name on that sign.
I’ve been to nearly every state in this country and we live in a state that is just as beautiful as any I’ve been to, including Hawaii,” Augustosky continued. “We need to respect this wonderful state that we live in and give it the honor and dignity that it deserves by keeping it clean.”
If you want to start your own AAH program in your community, call 1-800-322-3350 or visit REAP’s webpage: https://dep.wv.gov/environmental-advocate/reap/Pages/default.aspx.