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Keeping Knoxville Beautiful


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When troop 20596 decided to tackle a littering problem for their Take Action project, they agreed on a sustainable solution by providing a recycling bin for a local park that did not previously offer such a resource.

Abi, AJ, Allie, Ari, Bella, Ellen, Emma, Jessie, Kaylin, Lauren, Olivia, and Rachel are all members of the Knoxville area troop. Some have been in Girl Scouts since they were 5, others joined just last year. Together, they are Girl Scout sisters and friends who love Camp Tanasi and crafts. In the fall of 2018, when finishing their Think Like An Engineer Journey, they decided on a recycling focus for their Take Action project. The starting point was connecting with Keep Knoxville Beautiful about design options and a recycling plan. Executive director Alanna McKissack and program coordinator Maddy Staff both came and shared information and suggestions.

Girl Scout Emma made the first contact with Knox County Parks, who directed her to the neighborhood group Town Hall East, who had adopted their chosen location—Strickland Park. She wrote the initial proposal, while Allie and Kaylin put together a poster and short presentation which they gave to the Town Hall East board of directors at the Holston Hills Country Club in May. They fielded questions and got input. Once they had approval, Ellen was the primary writer of the Joyce Maienschein Leadership Grant application mainly to cover the cost of the special lid the girls picked out and large decals so people could tell it was a recycling container. Cookie money was used for exterior paint that would last a long time in the weather. For the specially-designed lid, they had to strategize—making sure the design prevented rain leaking through and animals sneaking in.

Using a 55-gallon drum found in troop volunteer Melissa Hansen-Petrik’s yard, the Girl Scouts transformed it into a colorful, lively recycling bin. When brainstorming what to paint on the drum, they discussed animals and oceans. When they learned animals were endangered by litter pollution, they decided to decorate the bin with jellyfish, starfish, dolphins, seaweed, and other underwater creatures to remind the public to be mindful of their litter and its impact.  

Troop 20596 completed the project in June with an official ribbon cutting ceremony at Strickland Park. County Commissioner Tank Strickland, the park’s namesake, Town Hall East leaders, Keep Knoxville Beautiful, other Girl Scout leaders, and family members were there to attend and celebrate. Town Hall East and the troop are working together to monitor and empty the recycling drum on an ongoing basis.

“The world needs more recycling,” said Allie, when asked what she learned during the project. “I also became a better presenter.”

“It feels good to help the community,” AJ added.