Sam Rumph wore sandals, shorts and a Grateful Dead T-shirt while BB&T Market President Lance Turpin looked every bit the part, dressed smartly in loafers, creased slacks, button-down shirt and tie.
Together, they looked about as compatible as a dolphin awash in discarded beer cans. Actually, the two men represented nicely the cross-section of folks who turned out Wednesday to pick up other people’s trash at St. Simons Island’s Neptune Park.
The cleanup effort, sponsored by Keep Golden Isles Beautiful, concluded with Rumph and Turpin presiding over the dedication of the park’s new sculpture piece, which drives home the fact that our litter and nature’s marine life do not mix. About 75 folks gathered for the installation of the wire-mesh dolphin, which was filled with recyclable litter that volunteers had just removed from the park.
Rumph, a manager at the Starbucks on St. Simons Island, helped acquire the piece through his regular volunteer work on litter patrols in the community. The coffee chain has a program that matches money toward employees’ volunteer efforts within their communities. BB&T also sponsored the purchase of the sculpture, as did several individual donors.
“Thank y’all,” Rumph told the crowd. “It’s really about y’all making this neighborhood and this planet a better place than when you got here.”
That summed up the attitude of those who joined the cleanup effort, the fifth installment in KGIB’s annual Marsh Madness program. Volunteers of all ages fanned out across the county park, filling garbage bags with the stuff others could not be bothered to put in a trash can.
“I hate litter,” said volunteer Peg Shorey. So does her husband, Nick. For years, he has taken it upon himself to combat litter along Lawrence Road on St. Simons Island’s north end. The couple pitches in often at KGIB events, including the Marsh Madness cleanup off Gascoigne Park on the island earlier this month.
“We’ve been picking up litter for years,” she said. “This today is a piece of cake, compared to Gascoigne. We were really in the muck at that one.”
Sophia Mendez was among several youngsters from the island Boys and Girls Club who skipped across the oceanfront’s Johnson rocks to get at plastic bags, bottles and other trash. She was patient with the adult who asked why picking up litter near the ocean is important.
“I think it’s important because there’s animals in the ocean,” said Sophia, 10. “And people throw out this trash and the animals eat it and they die. All life is valuable. I encourage people to come down here and do this with their free time – even if there’s no prize at the end.”
Lea King-Badyna could not have said it better herself. The executive director of KGIB said that is the point of the unique sculpture that now sits atop a pole at the park. It is the last of six sculptures KGIB has installed at parks on the island and mainland to emphasize the importance of keeping litter out of the ecosystem. The others include a Right whale at Coast Guard Beach, a manatee at Overlook Park, a pelican at Mary Ross Waterfront Park, a blue heron at North Glynn Recreational Complex and a shrimp at Blythe Island Regional Park. All six sculptures were created by Myrtle Beach, S.C., artist Jim Swain, who attended the dedication.
The Marsh Madness events are held in conjunction with similar Keep America Beautiful cleanup efforts nationwide. “Give yourselves a hand for coming out and picking up after others,” King-Badyna told the volunteers, who filled dozens of trash bags. “You have joined volunteers from across America to help keep our environment clean and green.”
So far, about 200 people have volunteered toward this year’s Marsh Madness cleanups, King-Badyna said. Volunteers are welcome to join the six remaining Marsh Madness events, including a cleanup Friday of the Jekyll Island side of the Sidney Lanier Bridge and a cleanup Saturday of the south side of the Turtle River Bridge. For more information, call 912-279-1490, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There was a time when Rumph never thought about where his cigarette butts would go when he flicked them onto the ground. A coworker pointed out to Rumph several years ago that his butts end up going down the drain and into the ocean and local waterways, wreaking havoc on marine life. He quit smoking, then he started picking up other people’s cigarette butts. He has since earned several thousand dollars toward local environmental causes through Starbuck’s program of matching money to employee’s volunteer hours.
“Picking up trash just seemed like the right thing to do,” Rumph said. “I’m just trying to make a difference, and maybe inspire others to as well.”