FD PICA to receive national honor

The estimated 20,000 hours that the volunteers of Pride In Community Appearance have spent beautifying Fort Dodge over little more than a decade are about to be recognized on a national level.

Keep America Beautiful Inc., an organization dedicated to preventing litter, reducing waste and beautifying communities, will present leaders of the group with a First Place National Award during a ceremony next Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

”The way I interpret it, it’s for the total breadth of our projects,” said Jan Wilson, the Fort Dodge man who started the group with his wife, Phyllis.

”It is amazing that they chose a small team of volunteers from Iowa from among all the groups in the United States,” he added.

The Wilsons will attend the award presentation at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in the nation’s capital. Members of PICA chipped in $1,400 to send them to the event.

PICA volunteers improve the appearance of public spaces around the city by planting flowers and trees, pulling weeds, building planter boxes and painting.

According to Jan Wilson, 2011 was the group’s biggest year. In addition to doing their regular landscaping work that year, the volunteers planted 48 flowering ornamental trees on the west side of 32nd Street. They also teamed up with employees of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department and tradesmen who volunteered their skills to refurbish the restroom and cabin in Oleson Park at the south end of 17th Street.

PICA has 60 to 70 members. During the spring, summer and fall they work at least two hours a day on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

”The volunteers do not feel, and I do not feel, that what we’re doing is work,” Jan Wilson said.

Two of those volunteers, John and Joan Robertson, submitted the application to Keep America Beautiful that resulted in PICA winning the award.

PICA members learned in early December that they would receive the honor. Phyllis Wilson said they were ”quite surprised.”

The Wilsons did not want to spend any of the group’s limited budget to go to Washington. Jan Wilson suggested that Keep America Beautiful could mail the award to Fort Dodge.

”The next thing I know, one of the volunteers contacted all the other volunteers in the organization and they collected over $1,400 to send us,” he said.

Phyllis Wilson added, ”They really wanted somebody to be there to get it.”

PICA was started by the Wilsons in 2002. They’re frequent visitors to Texas and while there they volunteer to fix up parks. That work inspired them to try something similar in Fort Dodge.

”We have so much fun improving parks there, I said let’s see what we can do in our own community,” Jan Wilson said.

Building a planter box around the sign at R.D. Mitchell Park at Second Avenue North and 25th Street was the group’s first project.

Jan Wilson estimated that the group has donated 20,000 hours to the community since then.