P3 doesn’t let weather cramp their efforts

Published 3:29 pm Friday, April 3, 2015

Franklin High’s Vanessa Stone hands off a water gun to her father, George. -- Cain Madden | Tidewater News

Franklin High’s Vanessa Stone hands off a water gun to her father, George. — Cain Madden | Tidewater News

Not even a late March snow this past Saturday could stop a dedicated group of Franklin students from doing their part to help the environment.

“Surprisingly, I really liked it,” said Franklin High School student Angela Bird, 16. “I know some people are like, ‘Eww, dirt and snow,’ but I enjoyed it. We are doing the community good, so anything will help.”

The Project Pollution Preventers, of which Bird is a member, were one of 23 teams that turned out last weekend for Blackwater and Nottoway Riverkeeper Jeff Turner’s Clean Rivers Day. As of Wednesday evening, the teams had picked up 2,175 pounds of trash, including 13 tires.

“The teams that braved the weather did a fine job, and I whole-heartedly thank them all for their dedication,” said Turner. “The community owes them a debt of gratitude.

“It’s a shame we even have to have a Clean Rivers Day in the first place. If people would dispose of their trash properly, contain their trash responsibly and every citizen took the time to pick up a little bit here and there year around, well, maybe our roads and ditches and waterways would not look like that’s where we purposely dispose of our trash here in Virginia.”

While many other volunteers were spread throughout the city and county, P3 decided to clean the ditch and retention pond starting just off High Street in downtown Franklin. It’s the last stretch of waterway before trash hits the river.

“That is why we chose this spot,” P3 member Vanessa Stone, 15, said. “This is one of our last best chances to catch it, so we really need to help clean up this area as much as possible.”

Stone brushed off the fact that it was cold.

“Just because it is cold outside doesn’t mean you should stop caring about the environment,” she said. “It’s important because if you don’t care, then everything will just go to ruin. A lot of natural resources would be gone, and animals would all just die out. Who would want to live in a world like that?”

Deep down they all knew that a little snow would not keep them out of those ditches, as did Elise DeGroft. Along with Patti Rabil, the Franklin High School science teacher is a co-mentor of the group. DeGroft jumped at joining the cause when the long-time community problem solvers coach, Rabil, retired from the system.

“I think they are a great group of kids that realize there is a problem in this country, and not many people really realize it,” DeGroft said. “They believe in hard work, and they have made such a difference in this community.”

Being at the forefront is important for them because it sets a tone, Bird said.

“You don’t see a lot of younger kids getting out and doing this,” she said. “When people drive by and see us doing it, I think it will make them realize that this is an important issue.”

Besides, it’s fun. Who doesn’t like standing in a creek as the snow is falling, all the while trying to loosen a purse buried deep in the mud?

“It took the brute strength of my brother,” said Conner McCoy, 14, of his 16-year-old brother Chance. “And we may have also broken a grabber. No comment.”

The purse had way too much mud in it to check and see if anyone left him some money, Chance admitted.

“We only bent the grabber a little,” he said. “It’s good to clean up the city. It’s a good city, and it’s nice to see it clean.”

Chance isn’t part of P3, but his brother is, so they were able to convince him to come out.

“I figured they could use someone,” he said. “Besides, it is better than sitting on your butt all day and watching TV.”

Kendall Brown isn’t part of P3 either. Similarly, Conner also convinced her as a friend and fellow J.P. King Middle School student. Slogging through the ditch in knee-high rubber boots, Brown was in good spirits.

“The cause is really good, making sure the city isn’t in the dumps. And it has been pretty cool, getting in the water and picking up all of the stuff that people throw in here. We found some sweat pants and a jacket that were pretty hard to get out,” said the 13-year-old who also found a marble she decided to keep.

Convincing them wasn’t hard, Conner said. For himself, he’s part of the group that fought to bring recycling to downtown Franklin and has completed other smaller projects to help prevent pollution from entering the ocean. Conner also mentioned that he didn’t really have anything else to do and wanted to spend time with his friends.

All of the students admitted that spending time with each other was their favorite part.

“Just being out here with everyone cleaning up, I think it is a great bonding experience,” Bird said. “We are just doing what we can to help save the environment.”