By Gerik Kransky of Hillsboro, Oregon. Gerik organized last weekend's SOLV Beach Cleanup. He is a Western Democrat and often blogs at LeftInTheWest.com.
What is the value of the Great Oregon Beach Cleanup? Sure, last weekend 5,493 Oregonians picked up 46.5 tons of trash, litter, and debris. But is SOLV just organizing garbage service for Oregon's ocean, waterways, and public parks? Hardly.
This BlueOregon water cooler is surrounded by dedicated activists, political hacks, policy wonks, and people who just wish they were. Y'all had better keep your eye on the house that Jack McGowan built. SOLV preaches a special brand of community activism, a brand that is driven by Oregon's rural communities.
My job at SOLV includes traveling around rural Oregon training volunteers to become volunteer managers and project leaders. When I walk into the library in Baker City to host a training, the first thing I ask is "what do you want to do in Baker City?" From that point on I focus on sharing SOLV's skills and resources with those community leaders in a way that helps them build successful improvement projects and stronger community based organizations.
I am just one of 34 dedicated staff out here in Hillsboro quietly building stronger communities from the ground up. We come to work every day focused on engaging volunteers in meaningful service, restoring watersheds, promoting education programs aligned with Oregon state standards, instilling leadership skills in our youth, and supporting local improvement initiatives of all shapes and sizes.
Thousands upon thousands of Oregonians live in the house that Jack built. If you want to engage people on that scale, you had better give them something they want, like results. With over 100,000 volunteer engagements last year and more than 2 million pounds of trash collected over the history the Beach Cleanup, SOLV delivers results. We are in fact strengthening Oregon's communities one person at a time, and the Beach Cleanup is just one piece of the puzzle.
Oh, and what does SOLV stand for anyway? We ditched the old acronym; I dare you to come up with a new one.