4-Hers, airboaters honored for cleanup

4-H Sharpshooters and the Lake Okeechobee Airboaters Association were recognized for their efforts to clean up Lake Okeechobee as part of their annual Earth Day community service project.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
These dedicated volunteers gathered up trash and debris along the shoreline and shallow areas of the lake.

“Too many times we have unsung heroes,” said County Commissioner Bryant Culpepper. “What the airboaters have done and what the Sharpshooters have done is worked in conjunction to do something most people don’t do, which is to clean up the lake.

“We hear a lot of publicity about kids getting in trouble with the law,” said Commissioner Culepper. He said it was refreshing to see young people and their families doing something positive. “Good kids come from good parenting,” he added, thanking the parents for setting a good example.

The proclamation notes:
“Lake Okeechobee is an important natural resource to Okeechobee County as well as its surrounding counties that border the lake; and
“Trash in the lakes, rivers, streams and oceans is one of the most serious pollution problems of our time, yet is entirely preventable; and
“On April 20, 2019 the 4-H Sharpshooters Club and the Lake Okeechobee Airboaters Associations teamed up for an Earth Day project to clean up Lake Okeechobee, volunteering their time for the project.
“These dedicated volunteers and their families gathered up trash and debris along the shoreline and shallow areas of the lake. Teams competed to see which one could gather the most trash and debris, and who could find the most unusual discarded items.”

The proclamation was issued in recognition of the cleanup efforts by these dedicated volunteers, and it said “we commend them for taking on the challenge of removing trash and debris from Lake Okeechobee, and making a positive difference in Okeechobee’s quality of life.”

Cole Verano, president of the 4-H Sharpshooters Club, said the club goes to different shooting and archery competitions around the state.

“Our members do very well representing Okeechobee,” he said. “One of our favorite things is the Lake Okeechobee Cleanup. We team up with the Lake Okeechobee Airboaters Association, and it wouldn’t be possible without them,” he said.

“We have been doing this for about six years. We have pulled lots of stuff in,” he said. In addition to providing a community service, he said the project is also a team building exercise for the child, helping to “teach younger members that, working as a team, we can accomplish something really big.”

Sharphooter Shelby Sumner, who has participated in all of the Lake Okeechobee Cleanup Days since 2013, said they found some unusual items including half a dozen mattresses, lots of tires, televisions, toilets, bumpers and “anything you can imagine.” She said the first year, they found so much garbage they had to make multiple trips back and forth to the shore because everything wouldn’t fit on the boats. She said they have noticed there is less garbage in the lake each year, which shows they are making a difference.

Sharpshooter Gatlin Hilderbrand said the project is a shining example of “honor and hope.”

“It brings kids together and shows them a different aspect of the community,” he said. “It shows them a new kind of community volunteering and hope. It gives them pride to help out where we can.”

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