Dataw Island team awarded for keeping county beautiful

charley@beaufortgazette.comJuly 7, 2012 

A group of Dataw Island residents recently won two awards.

But they're not celebrating.

Instead they have a message for everyone: Don't litter.

The group was awarded the State Adopt-A-Highway "Group of the Year" for Beaufort County and the District 6 group award for picking up 450 bags of trash off the road in 2011.

The team's captain, Robert Hendricks, a retired forester and diplomat, said he wants this distinction to serve as a reminder to folks to have community spirit and pride in your home.

While Hendricks appreciates the award because it recognizes the strong volunteerism in Beaufort County, he would like for those who throw out their beer cans, fast-food packaging and whiskey bottles on the side of the road to learn to appreciate the county's beauty and develop compassion for the wildlife, fish and birds affected by this trash.

For more than 15 years the group has picked up trash for about one hour on the first Monday of each month along 16 miles of U.S. 21, from Lady's Island to St. Helena Island.

Volunteers, who are up to age 80, consist of former executives, company vice presidents and even major generals.

"Some people think we are some old foolish people, but we are not," Hendricks said. "We do it because of pride. We don't want to live in a trash pile."

The county's prosperity also is linked to its beauty.

"Beaufort County is blessed with unusual and nice scenery and the beauty of our county is strongly affected by trash on the roads," Hendricks said.

Hendricks said plastic that doesn't get picked up is washed into the ocean and eventually becomes part of a swirling mass the size of Texas.

"It is not just about picking up trash because we are neatniks, it is about protecting the birds and the fish and all of the pollution it causes," Hendricks said.

He said the worst thing about picking up trash is when someone in a passing vehicle throws out garbage right in front of the group while they're cleaning up the road.

They have, however, received thumbs-up from bicyclists who pass by.

Countywide, there are about 80 groups of volunteers, totaling 1,000 people.

"These folks are serious about what they do," said Veronica Miller, coordinator of Keep Beaufort County Beautiful. "They do not pick up litter to win points. They want it to be a lesson to all who see them out there month after month in whatever kind of weather."

Among the group's strangest finds was a toilet. The most worthy item of trash? A $20 bill.

In January, the largest number of bags pick up in one day was 60.

Hendricks is among a subgroup of volunteers who stop and pick up trash on days other than the first Monday of the month.

"I picked up some kind of foam insulation thing that was sitting on the edge of the marsh," Hendricks said. "It annoyed me because it was there, and if I had not picked it up, it would have been floating in the water."

Miller said the Dataw group also has received recognition from other motorists requesting the retirees to pick up trash in other areas.

"Can you believe that?" Miller asked.

"My answer is always no, and I encourage the caller to organize their neighbors to do the same thing."

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