Keep Durham Beautiful works to improve East Durham environment

Children and volunteers with the East Durham Children’s Initiative planted trees in East End Park to celebrate Arbor Day on March 27 (Photo by Keep Durham Beautiful)

 When you imagine a beautiful environment, what comes to mind? You probably think of pristine, litter-free streams, an abundance of green trees and crisp, clear air. In Durham, volunteers interested in beautifying and protecting the environment work to make those images a reality for residents.

Keep Durham Beautiful, Inc. is a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization that aims to bring the Durham community together to beautify and conserve the environment. According to its website, the organization partners with the Durham City General Services Department and the Durham County to organize cleanup events, beautification projects and educational opportunities.

Tania Dautlick, executive director of Keep Durham Beautiful, said the organization works closely with neighborhood groups to organize local beautification projects. She said volunteers work with community members to understand environmental needs within neighborhoods in East Durham.

“People who live directly in the community know their needs best,” Dautlick said. “Blending outside volunteer groups and community groups is also great because people are exposed to new perspectives, and sometimes friendships are even born.”

Past Keep Durham Beautiful efforts in East Durham have included establishing tree orchards at Eastway Elementary School and planting new trees in East End Park and along Guthrie Avenue. Volunteer groups organize litter cleanups and other educational activities for families and community members. The East Durham Children’s Initiative also planted 15 trees in East End Park in celebration of Arbor Day.

“Given that our mission at Keep Durham Beautiful is to engage and inspire individuals to take greater responsibility in their community environment through litter prevention, community greening and recycling and waste reduction, partnering with EDCI was a no-brainer,” said Monica Ospina, an AmeriCorps volunteer who worked with the East Durham Children’s Initiative to plant trees for Arbor Day. “We enjoyed working with EDCI kids to educate kids in East Durham so they can become stewards of their environment.”

Dautlick said Keep Durham Beautiful recently received an $80,000 grant from Duke Energy, which is the largest grant the organization has received to date. The money will go towards the East Durham Urban Canopy Renewal project. The project aims to plant more than 100 trees in urban areas of East Durham that lack trees.

“There is a major focus on Guthrie Avenue because the trees there were incompatible and dying,” Dautlick said. “That project will help revitalize the trees in that area.”

The grant will also go towards educational activities for the East Durham community, Dautlick said. She said another significant part of Keep Durham Beautiful’s mission is to bring communities together, and money from the grant will allow for more community-centered educational opportunities.

“We want to reduce our carbon footprint while bringing the community together,” Dautlick said. “When people care about the beauty of where they live, they work towards the common goal of protecting natural resources and preserving the natural beauty of the environment.”

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