It’s fun, it’s good exercise, and it’s the right thing to do.
There are lots of reasons to volunteer with the Beautify Carolina Forest group, and there are lots of volunteers – more than 70 – but president Betsy Fay says there’s always room for more.
BelleGrove resident Paul Audette is an avid hiker who has conquered about 26 of North Carolina’s 6,000-foot mountains.
Keeping Carolina Forest beautiful is important to him for its own sake, but also because it keeps his hiker’s legs fit and healthy.
Brighton Lakes resident Phil Marchbank is also health conscious, and has lost enough weight walking and picking litter that he’s been able to go off his type 2 diabetes meds.
Marchbank’s concern for the community goes further – and farther – than his assigned litter pick-up area. Matter of fact, neighbor Susan Belsito says she wants to nominate him for mayor of Brighton Lakes.
“The term ‘good neighbor’ does not apply. Extraordinary, super great, generous with himself and his time,” she says, describing him.
Marchbank brings neighbors’ trash cans back from the street, and trims other people’s trees while he’s out walking. He makes sure people have ladders so they can change their smoke alarms, and he lends his tents and tables for yard sales.
“My husband Domenic and I are just a couple of the dozens of neighbors that Phil touches on a daily basis,” Belsito says.
“It’s not rocket science,” Marchbank says, “You see trash, you bend down and pick it up.”
But as Belsito says, he does more than pick up the trash.
His wife Janet says, “I’ve heard him say he doesn’t like disrespecting the world God gave us.”
“Well yes,” he agrees. “We’ve been given a beautiful creation and we need to be good stewards of that.”
Marchbank walks between 10 and 13 miles every day, and lost 35 pounds in eight months doing so.
The walking in itself is rewarding, he says.
“I saw an otter running, and I saw a bald eagle. And I also see people walking with headphones on and they’re completely oblivious to what’s going on around them.”
Phil and Janet Marchbank moved to Carolina Forest from New Jersey where he retired from sales and she retired from being a school aide, working with children with special needs.
The second Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each month, the Beautify Carolina Forest volunteers pick up trash, using gloves, vests and pickers provided through South Carolina Palmetto Pride and Keep Horry County Beautiful, covering 23 miles of Carolina Forest roads.
The volunteers also
maintain medians Carolina Forest Boulevard, Gardner Lacy Road and River Oaks Drive.
“When we do this,” Fay says, “we are responsible to maintain anything we
plant on those medians along with mowing the grass.
“Besides [picking up] litter, we have groups that maintain the medians including mowing, trimming, mulching and planting.”
“With the widening of Carolina Forest Boulevard, more medians will be added per the request of the committee that helped design the plan,” Fay says, adding that the group has been asked to help maintain those additional areas.
Audette says volunteering with Beautify Carolina Forest is helping a good cause, and it’s given him a chance to meet neighbors.
“There’s a good group of people doing this, and we’ve become friends,” he says.
“We pick up 100 bags of trash every month, and it’s disappointing because two or three days later, you see stuff being thrown out of car windows and falling off trucks, and it’s really sad.”
Yet, Audette adds, “It is satisfying when you get done. When I pick up six, eight, 10 bags of trash in one weekend, I feel good about that.”
Even when he hikes, the retired New England postmaster picks up trash.
He tries to walk 10,000 steps a day which is 70,000 steps a week and tries to hike 100 miles a year.
“Going to the gym is okay, but being on a treadmill isn’t the same as a hike,” he says.
And if he can combine that hiking with walking in Carolina Forest, helping to make the community a better place, he’s all for it.
Audette and his wife Meg have been in the area since ’07, coming from Vermont where she retired from working in the school system, also with children with special needs as Marshbank’s wife did.
The most unusual thing Audette’s picked up as a volunteer was “a plastic bin with four ducks full of bullet holes.”
Then there are the hypodermic needles and what he calls “regular trash.”
“It’s disgusting, it’s not good. We need to take care of what we have.”