Sprucing Up Their Part of the Planet

Before the Wisconsin Lions took to the roads, a drive through the green countryside could be interrupted by the sight of spring wildflowers blooming among somebody’s garbage. More than cups and cans tossed carelessly from car windows, were discarded refrigerators and other junk.

People load garbage into a truck
Independence Lions get help from the local football team and weight-lifting squad when organizing their annual clean-up.

Out of sight, out of mind? Not for the Independence Lions. For more than 25 years, the club of 51 has spent the Saturday closest to Earth Day honoring earth by cleaning it up.

Independence Lion Dr. William Baxa, a dentist in the town of 1,300, took on the role of chairperson for the City Wide Clean-up when it began, and he has never stopped.

“It’s so popular and such a worthwhile community event,” says the 39-year Lion.

In coordination with Tri-City Sanitation Service in nearby Whitehall, the Lions set up a collection area at Four Seasons Park in town on the last Saturday in April. People can drop off things like old mattresses, lawn mowers and more – items that are difficult to get rid of.

This is not a fundraiser and not a free service, but it’s a welcome one. The Lions work with Tri-City on pickup prices that are based on weight, then pass on that same cost to people who are happy to have things carried away  Dumping an artificial Xmas tree will cost $5, a mattress, $8, a computer monitor, $10, and the whole kitchen sink, $5.

A dozen or more members of the Independence Lions High School football and weight-lifting teams help with loading and unloading heavy items. Large boxes at the collection site keep things organized, and the Lions supply everything from dollies to garbage bags and gloves for those who also help by picking up litter around town.

By 8:30 in the morning, Lions will be directing rows of trucks and trailers lined up at the park. Those who can’t get there can call ahead and request a pickup. Typically 35 to 40 pickups will be made around town.

Lions club members load garbage into a truck for local clean up.
The club charges for the items they help discard, but it’s a much-welcome service for those looking to unload their junk.

“People are generous,” says Baxa. “They are more than happy to pay and get it out of their house, especially after a long winter.”

What the Lions cannot organize is the weather for this rain or shine or snow event. Although they have often been blessed with warm sunshine, they have also spent the morning when it was not so nice out.

Some people have suggested the Lions tackle this in the fall as well.

“Well… no,” says Baxa. “It’s a lot of work. We do it one time a year. We don’t make money, and we don’t lose money. It’s pretty much a wash, but what we do is an excellent service to the community.”

Afterwards, they grill hotdogs and brats for hungry, hardworking volunteers, then toss their garbage appropriately. And Mother Earth smiles.