June 14, 2008

Toyota Rewards Guardians’ Work: Automaker Donates $20,000 to Wildcat Creek Group

By Scott Smith, Kokomo Tribune, Ind.

Jun. 14--What started with a group of friends meeting to pick up trash along creekbanks has become something even huge corporations have come to recognize.

Friday, Delphi workers concluded their Week of Excellence with a ceremony to honor Kokomo's Wildcat Guardians, including the presentation of a $20,000 check from Toyota.

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight, Delphi Electronics & Safety president Jeff Owens, state representatives Ron Herrell and Heath VanNatter and a number of Delphi and Toyota execs gathered onstage with members of the Guardians for the presentation.

"They're a model of our vision ... business and individuals working together to make people aware of our environment," said Tom Easterly, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

"These people go out, and they go through the creek pulling out debris," Goodnight said. "They volunteer their time and do things most of us wouldn't want to do, even if we were paid."

Former Guardians president Ken Munro thanked Toyota for the contribution, which will go toward helping to build a canoe launch/access point near the confluence of the Kokomo and Wildcat creeks, as well as supplies to perform chemical testing of the creek water.

Toyota executive Greg Laskey, from the manufacturing/research & development center in Erlanger, Ky., presented the donation.

"Corporate social responsibility is a core value for Toyota," he said.

The Guardians still pick up trash along the banks of the Wildcat and still organize canoe tours. But they also test the water and partner with a variety of state agencies and environmental groups to advocate for better water quality in the entire seven-county region comprising the Wildcat Creek watershed, Munro explained.

Organized in 1990, the group of citizen volunteers is committed to improving the health and beauty of the Wildcat and its watershed. In the group's 18 years, members have removed many tons of trash from the creek and have kept the once-abused waterway on local elected officials' list of concerns.

Their triumphs include cleaning up more than 3,000 tires group members discovered in a dumping site just east of U.S. 31, and helping the Wildcat Creek Foundation purchase land near Cutler, close to the site of the famous old Adams Mill.

Later this year, Guardians volunteers will help lay rows of coir logs on the banks of the Little Wildcat Creek in Jackson Morrow Park, as an erosion control measure. The logs, made of the husk inside coconut shells, will both protect the creekbank and allow native vegetation to grow through.

Munro said the group has plenty of other ideas.

"We're producing a video, expounding on the beauties of the Wildcat," he said. "[The creek] is worth all the work we put in."

Scott Smith may be reached at (765) 454-8569 or via e-mail at [email protected]


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