As the new director of Ouachita Green, Aundi Brown says the clean-up and beautification organization plans to develop an internship program to enlist area youth in community service.
“This is something we need to start investing in at a young age,” she said.
Brown, of West Monroe, was named the non-profit organization’s executive director in October after Ouachita Green’s director, Stuart Hodnett, took a job as the city of West Monroe’s director of parks and recreation.
Ouachita Green serves as the umbrella for Keep West Monroe Beautiful, Keep Ouachita Parish Beautiful and Keep Monroe Beautiful.
“We are working on some partnerships with local businesses to expand our educational efforts in the school systems, from elementary up to high school,” Brown said. “I want to develop an internship for local high school students.”
Brown previously served as Keep West Monroe Beautiful’s president for more than two years. During that time, one of her student volunteers found her experience with the clean-up organization to be an inspiration for a career.
“Before it was over with, she had decided she wanted to change her major to environmental education,” Brown said. “That became something she was passionate about and wanted to pursue as her career.”
West Monroe Mayor Staci Mitchell commended Brown for her work in the few months since she was hired as Ouachita Green’s director.
“She is passionate about our community’s appearance and the health of our environment,” Mitchell said. “In her short time as coordinator, she has already organized several cleanup and recycling events and begun making connections with volunteer groups and leaders in the area.”
“We look forward to working closely with her and Ouachita Green to continue to find ways to make our region a clean and beautiful community,” Mitchell added.
Last month, the Ouachita Parish Police Jury approved a cooperative endeavor agreement pledging $25,000 in funding for Ouachita Green for 2021. That amount represented an increase of $5,000 more than the Police Jury committed in 2020.
Brown explained the $5,000 increase in funding would help cover the cost of enlisting more volunteers and holding more clean-up events than before.
“Even in a COVID-19 year we are having a record number of volunteers,” Brown said. “Our organization has grown in numbers and events about 25 percent over the last two years.”
According to Brown, the America Recycles Day/Household Hazardous Waste event that took place in November represented the largest turnout Ouachita Green had ever recorded for a single event. The event drew 217 volunteers.
“Ouachita Green and Aundi Brown are doing a tremendous job in terms of working with the limited amount of funding they have,” said Police Jury President Shane Smiley.
“We are pleased with Aundi Brown and her performance so far, and we look forward to 2021 and being able to work with them and hopefully see great things come out of the organization.”
A successful clean-up and beautification organization would help attract major employers to the area, according to Brown.
“These cleanups that we have, these beautification efforts we do, like beautifying our gateways in and out of our city, are all things that promote awareness and affect our economic development,” Brown said.