The driving force behind the formation of Keep Van Buren Beautiful and the catalyst who keeps it going will take center stage Friday when KVBB celebrates its 10th anniversary.

John Pope, executive director of Keep Van Buren Beautiful, will be among the 40 guests who will attend the lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Van Buren Police Department Community Room.

Robert Phelps, executive director of the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission, will be at Friday’s invitation only luncheon to celebrate KVBB’s first 10 years.

"Over the last decade I’ve had the good fortune to know John and to work closely with him," Phelps said. "I have enjoyed following his accomplishments toward making his city, and our state, a cleaner, greener, more attractive and inviting place to live."

Phelps said he greatly admires Pope and recognizes his adherence to the principles and high standards of Keep America Beautiful Inc.

"Coupled with his devotion to the mission and programs of the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission, John consistently demonstrates his extraordinary environmental concern and leadership," Phelps said. "I’m deeply appreciative that both the City of Van Buren and the State of Arkansas experience an improved quality of life through John and his efforts."

Pope has been director of KVBB since its inception in 2005. He was appointed by Gov. Mike Beebe to the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission, a position he still holds, and was recently nominated to the board of directors for Keep America Beautiful.

"When a large group of community leaders gathered at the King Opera House in 2005 to discuss what could be done about litter prevention, waste reduction and community improvement, John Pope seemed to be one of the more energized there," said Ernie Schimmelman, board president for KVBB.

He said it was obvious Pope was determined to be involved and to be a catalyst for achievement.

"Over the past 10 years as executive director John’s commitment, energy and leadership have been instrumental in the operation, program development and phenomenal growth of Keep Van Buren Beautiful," Schimmelman said.

Van Buren City Planner Joe Hurst said Pope’s tireless commitment to beautifying Van Buren is an inspiration to all.

"From the first day I met him, it was clear to see his passion," Hurst said. "His efforts have improved our community tremendously."

KVBB board member Kristie Moore said Pope has done so much for this community.

"The amount of time he puts in visiting schools, meeting various groups to assist them in area cleanups, attending state and local meetings, is to be commended," Moore said. "His name is synonymous with Keep Van Buren Beautiful. You can’t mention one without the other. I am proud to call him my friend."

Newly appointed board member Brett Painter also lauded Pope’s efforts.

"I’ve only worked with John for the past couple of years, but every organization should hope for a leader like John, who not only works hard but inspires others to do more," Painter said.

Longtime board member Dorvan Wiley pointed out Pope was the force to get the group going and keep it going.

"I think Rusty Myers put it this way, ‘You have to have someone with a passion for a project to make it successful,’ " Wiley said. "The original board had an idea, a vision, but John had a passion to move KVBB forward and carry out the board’s vision and mission statement. That passion has made KVBB a very important part of Van Buren now and for the future."

Rick Green said he had the privilege while serving as state representative to work with Pope as he visioned the additional beauty of the community that could be achieved through the Keep Van Buren Beautiful program.

"John challenged me as he did so many others to see his vision for Van Buren," Green said. "He has been recognized state-wide and nationally for his efforts. He has unselfishly shared that recognition with all citizens of Van Buren."

Green said Pope could have just embraced retirement after years of service in California but instead took on this project for the betterment of his new home, Van Buren.

"I have thought more than once what Van Buren could be if more citizens put back into our community just a fraction of the envisioned effort that John Pope has given," he said. "John Pope is not a loud-spoken person but his mark on our area will for many years hence bear witness that he has lived and walked among us."