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Joanie Tooley, Bright n' Beautiful executive director


LARRY MAYER Billings Gazette

Relief that the deep snowfall of 2017-2018 has finally receded may be mixed with disgust as folks in Yellowstone County now can see the volume of litter that has accumulated along fences, in ditches, vacant lots and public rights of way.

The trash that has been blown out of garbage cans, tossed out of vehicles or simply dumped reminds us that it’s time for the Great American Cleanup, which is scheduled for April 28 in Billings and Shepherd, on May 5 in Laurel and Worden, and for both April 28 and May 5 in Huntley.

The annual community cleanup days are organized by Bright n’ Beautiful, whose new executive director, Joanie Tooley, has a very optimistic perspective. Rather than a trash day, Tooley sees the cleanup as “uncovering the beauty of our environment. I encourage people to take care of our environment together.”

Tooley, who moved to Billings 20 years ago, remembers being struck by the community’s rugged beauty when she first saw it. Soon, she learned that Billings also is community of dynamic volunteers. “Bright n’ Beautiful sits at the intersection of those two things,” she said.

Although Tooley is new to Bright n’ Beautiful, she is supported by a board with deep roots in the organization: past executive directors Helen Johnson and Audra Waite, longtime Shepherd cleanup organizer Jackie Schleder, former city council member Peggy Gaghen, Dan Miller, Margaret Gallagher and Jean Carroll Thompson.

The Great American Cleanup is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, while Keep America Beautiful is marking its 65th year of promoting organizations such as Bright n’ Beautiful.

As of last week, Tooley had 150 volunteers on the Billings cleanup roster. That includes Anne Cole, wife of Mayor Bill Cole, who plans to celebrate her birthday cleaning up part of the city with a group of friends. Billings needs more volunteers.

With Earth Day coming up Sunday, the Great American Cleanup is an opportunity for Yellowstone County families, students, churches, businesses and clubs to care for our place on the planet. Look around your neighborhood, find a spot that you and your friends or family can pick up, and call Bright n’ Beautiful to volunteer. Check the box above for schedules and registration information.