Dedicated youth makes a big difference

Keep Durham Beautiful volunteer cleans up over 20 parks earning Mayor’s Award
Oct. 05, 2013 @ 11:41 AM

Sometimes, the best volunteers come in smaller packages.

On Sept. 30, 12-year-old Matthew Greeley was recognized by Mayor Bill Bell at the Mayor’s Award Ceremony for his impressive volunteer work with Keep Durham Beautiful, the Durham non-profit focused on litter prevention, beautification and waste reduction.

Matthew joined 278 other youth aged 12-18 who each dedicated 100 hours or more of their 2013 summer break volunteering with area non-profits. The contributed a total of 32,792 service hours through the program organized by The Volunteer Center of Durham.

Spending 46.5 of his 100 service hours with Keep Durham Beautiful, Matthew collected 48.5 bags of litter from approximately one-third of the 68 parks operated by the City of Durham Department of Parks and Recreation. The city has staff who regularly clean up the parks, but engaged residents and students like Matthew can help keep these community green spaces cleaner by preventing litter and picking up trash whenever they visit parks.

“The Mayor's Award Program has been such a positive experience for Matthew,” said his mother, Sarah Greeley, who accompanied him frequently on his park visits. Matthew enjoyed his beautification work so much he wants to continue volunteering with Keep Durham Beautiful during the school year and work toward the Volunteer Center's Hard Corps Award requiring another 50 hours of service.

"This summer I volunteered over one hundred hours for the Durham Mayor's Award Program,” Matthew wrote. “I volunteered at Meals on Wheels, The Food Bank, and Keep Durham Beautiful. For Keep Durham Beautiful, I picked up trash in over 20 parks. I didn't realize there were so many nice parks in Durham.”

“My favorite park was West Point on the Eno. After I picked up trash, I was able to play in the Eno River. It was fun to swim to the huge waterfall and play in the water. By volunteering, I met some really nice people, learned a lot about Durham and helped my community."
Matthew and his older brother, Nathan, both received the Mayor's Award. This was Matthew's first Mayor's Award, since he had just turned 12, and Nathan's fifth Mayor's Award. Nathan started when he was 12 and has volunteered the past two summers at the Duke Children's Hospital, where he has become a junior volunteer leader.
Sarah Greely thinks that the Volunteer Center of Durham does an excellent job in providing the Mayor's Award Program as an opportunity for youth to positively impact their community and learn about local, state and national issues. “It gives youth the structure to achieve a very meaningful goal and then gives them recognition for their accomplishments,”  she said.

The Greeley family looks forward to visiting more parks and continuing to help Keep Durham Beautiful.
To learn more about other volunteer opportunities, visit or call 919-354-2729. Be sure to like us at or follow us at

Tania Dautlick is executive director of Keep Durham Beautiful, a non-profit affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, which engages and inspires individuals to take greater responsibility for their community environment. Focus areas include litter prevention, recycling and waste reduction and beautification.