The hard work put in by the Keep Van Buren Beautiful program is not going unnoticed.

The organization recently received the President’s Circle Recognition Award, which is presented by the national Keep America Beautiful organization, of which Keep Van Buren Beautiful is an affiliate.

“This award recognizes a standard of excellence,” said Keep Van Buren Beautiful Director John Pope, who received the award on March 25. “We’re real proud of this.”

Local affiliates have to go through a lot of steps to even qualify for the award.

“In order to get this, Keep America Beautiful has a list of about half a dozen things that you have to do every year,” said Pope.

Among those are the Great American Cleanup, the Great Arkansas Cleanup and the Community Appearance Index, a program in which local affiliates score their entire city for litter and cleanliness.

Pope, who led his organization through this process earlier this year, said, “You score it between one and four with four being the worst. When we started out being an affiliate we were at three plus, which means it would take a considerable cleanup to clean up the city. The last three or four years we’ve been around one.”

Pope said in Van Buren four people went out and scored 30 different areas of the city and came back with a score of 1.2.

Every time Keep Van Buren Beautiful puts on a cleanup event, like the eWaste pickup event scheduled for later this month, he’s required to send in information about the event to Keep America Beautiful officials so they can log the information so as to keep track with what the Van Buren affiliate is doing.

All that work pays off in a cleaner Van Buren. 

“I made a point to really laud John for his efforts with Keep Van Buren Beautiful in the State of the City Address because what he does is really amazing,” said Van Buren Mayor Joe Hurst. “He has such a passion for this work. And it’s so important to the quality of life of Van Buren."

Pope said of the over 600 Keep America Beautiful affiliates across the nation, less than 50 percent finish the necessary steps to qualify for this award.

“We have done this every year that we’ve been an affiliate,” he said.

“It’s great to be honored and recognized by the national organization,” said Hurst. “John is really recognized throughout the county in that organization because of what he does here.”