A WOU Student’s Experience Helping Organize the Independence-Monmouth Community Clean-Up

The Independence-Monmouth Community Clean-Up, held annually, is an opportunity for local residents to clear their homes of debris. It’s also a chance for the community to come together and help beautify Independence and Monmouth by picking up trash and clearing park trails.

For my class, it was something of a trial by fire. As part of COM 410: Communication and Event Planning, we had the opportunity to help organize an actual event, from securing donors to managing logistics. The Independence-Monmouth Community Clean-Up was ours, though in previous years students have done everything from organizing benefit dinners to planning out birthday parties for children in need.

Meeting the Class

Our team: from left, Aline Ntibanyerekwa, Amanda Kiflay, Michelle Soutar, Alexis Amesquita, Buster Souza, Cynthia Olivares, Michael Chin, Daniele Peterson, and Byron Kimball


I didn’t have much event planning experience to speak of. I was assigned to the Clean-Up’s publicity and promotion team. My teammate, Cynthia, worked in Student Engagement and had previously been involved in ASWOU. Other class members had experiences dotted all over the map. Amanda, our volunteer coordinator, had helped organize music events back in her native Sweden.

It didn’t take long for us to dive into our event. Week 1, we were introduced to each other and assigned to task groups. Besides our Publicity and Promotion team, we had a Fundraising team, a Logistics team, and a Volunteer Coordination team. Our Event Coordinator, Michael, acted as a go-between for us and the Independence Police Department, making sure we stayed on track.

Getting Ready to Go

The month between the beginning of class and the Clean-Up, which was on May 19, was a dizzying array of deadlines, emails, and footwork. Michelle and Alexis, our logistics team, did everything from getting food to scheduling the day’s events. The fundraising team, Daniele and Buster, called dozens of local businesses to solicit donations to offset the cost of this community event. Amanda and Aline, our volunteer coordinators, recruited and prepped volunteers to make sure we had enough hands on deck to keep the event running.

Volunteers, from WOU, enjoying a much needed lunch break.

Cynthia and I worked on publicity and promotion. This involved updating materials, helping with advertising, and promoting the event to newspapers and other publications. And we wrote a Letter to the Editor for the Polk Itemizer-Observer.

The Event

Since the Community Clean-Up is an annual event, we at least didn’t have to start from scratch. This didn’t mean that all of our work was cut out for us. But it did mean that we knew what residents expected.

Residents line up to dump debris

We also had help from SOLVE. SOLVE, a 501 (c) non-profit helps organize clean-ups all over the state of Oregon. I’ll let them describe what they do:

SOLVE is a statewide, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to bring Oregonians together to improve our environment and build a legacy of stewardship. We are dedicated to developing relationships among different groups, individuals, and businesses in pursuit of a common goal: to protect and preserve the places that make up our uniquely beautiful home.

SOLVE provided us with gloves, bags, and guidance along the way.

We also had help, thanks to Daniele and Buster, from a number of local businesses:

community clean-up sponsor sign
Our wonderful community sponsors

The Day Of

The clean-up went off without a hitch, I’m happy to say. Overall, we removed thousands of pounds of trash with volunteers from WOU, the community, and the Independence Police Department and Public Works.

Volunteers fill a dump truck full of debris

Through the Community Clean-Up, residents had the chance to clear their home of junk and debris and drop it off at Riverview Park for just $10 or $20. Volunteers went throughout Independence and Monmouth, picking up litter and debris along streets and in parks.

Buster demonstrates all the litter bags he was able to fill around Independence

I went out, in a bright orange vest, and collected litter around Monmouth Avenue. You may have seen my classmates on Highway 99, along Main Street, or in one of our many city parks. Together, we filled dozens of bags full of trash. Hopefully, we reminded our community that, when we all work together, we can make Independence and Monmouth a beautiful place to live.

If you’d like to get involved next year, reach out to the Independence Police Department next spring