A Decade of Difference
Written By: Joyce Bowling
Copyright September 2007
On a hot summer day in 1997, a new chapter opened in the history of southern and eastern Kentucky. The region’s leaders pledged to turn the page on pollution and economic stagnation. Citizens agreed it was time for a change, and they rallied to erase the mistakes of their past. Together, they began writing an inspiring story of personal responsibility leading to a more desirable environment!
The turning point came ten years ago, when the PRIDE story began in Hazard Kentucky at the Hazard Community College. On June 30, 1997 a committee met in the college auditorium to have a discussion about Kentucky’s pollution problems, which stood in the way of our region’s prosperity, interfered in our health, the wildlife, and the appearance of our great state. The committee was excited as a plan to correct this problem began to form. That day those members pledged to work together to reverse decades of abuse and neglect of our region. At that time, illegal dumps and untreated wastewater were major pollutants in southern and eastern Kentucky. These problems, were emerged over decades, were largely due to inadequate infrastructure for handling ever-growing amounts of solid waste and wastewater.
In the decade since that meeting, with the efforts of many citizens we have accomplished more than any of the original members could have ever imagined. Our hillsides are cleaner, our rivers are healthier, our students are better stewards, our citizens are more likely to do the right thing with trash and wastewater, and as a result our communities are more attractive to tourists, businesses and retirees. More than 237,129 people have volunteered 667,660 hours toward PRIDE cleanup and education projects. On the water quality front, low-income homeowners and local governments have used $116 million in PRIDE resources to install 7,000 septic systems and expand sewer service to 20,000 homes. In solid waste, local governments and nonprofits have used $23 million in PRIDE grants to clean up 2,4000 illegal dumps. With 3.3 million in grants, schools and nonprofits have impacted 486,000 students with hands-on environmental education projects.
Changes of this magnitude were never dreamed possible when PRIDE began. Even those who helped launch the initiative can only speculate about the reason for its surprising success. Some say that PRIDE was launched at a time when people were ready for change! Looking back on the PRIDE story since 1997 “A Decade of Difference” is a fitting title for this chapter in our region’s history. Looking ahead, the people saw that change was possible, and we wanted to part of it!
On August 28th 2007 hundreds came together in the Hazard Forum to savor our achievements, to stroll down memory lane, and recognize the most recent heroes and heroines with the 2007 Envi Awards! I am proud to announce that Manchester Elementary was nominated and was a finalist for the School Campus of the year award. However, we didn’t win first place but took PRIDE in knowing that our hard work in the school’s cleanup projects, greenhouse, garden, bird and squirrel feeders, outdoor classroom, wetlands, and other projects lead us to the success with better education about caring for our environment and to be recognized for our achievements and hard work, but most of all that we took part in making the great state of Kentucky a better place to live!