A movement has been slowly growing in Perry, one that, by looking down, has parts of the community looking up.
The Perry Green Runners is a collection of local residents — mainly youth — that have taken it upon themselves to help improve the cleanliness of the city and undo the best efforts of litterbugs while sharing their passion for exercise. The group meets weekly for a 20-30 minute run/walk through a specific area of the city, and while doing so they fill large bags with any garbage they might find along the way.
"We will pick up anything that is safe for us to handle and anything we can fit into our bags," Emily Stout said. "You would be amazed at what we have found so far … it has ranged from small bits of paper or garbage to dead animals and items of clothing, just about anything."
The idea originally began with former Perry resident Rachel Kautzky-Scheib, who started the first Green Runners group in the Des Moines area in 2011. She was a guest speaker in the spring of that year at Perry High School’s Career Fair.
"That is what gave us the idea that we could do the same thing here," said 2012 PHS grad Gerardo Rios, who spurred the creation of the Perry Green Runners. "It has grown from there and now there are groups in Humboldt and Cedar Falls, too."
Rios was quick to point out that the ‘run’ part of the group, at least in Perry, is not the major focus of what the Green Runners do.
"Yes, some of us run, but you do not have to," he said. "We have some people who run and some who walk. The main point is to come together, clean up an area and do something positive."
The PGR have their own facebook page, where they detail past events and where the upcoming ‘runs’ will be held. The group has been gathering at 6:30 p.m. each Sunday for their approximately 30-minute efforts.
The grounds of the Perry Senior High and Middle School, Pattee Park, the Dog Park at Pattee Park, Perkins Park, the area around Hy-Vee and surrounding the Perry East Plaza, near Crossroads Church and around Tyson’s have all had successful visits from the PGR. Their most recent target was Violet Hill Cemetery and surrounding streets.
"The cemetery is pretty clean, but the streets around it — especially out towards 16th street and north on 8th street — could use a visit, so that will be our focus," Stout said. "We have not decided on where we will go next. We might return to a place we have been before if it needs it, or we might find someplace new."
The group includes all ages and anyone is welcome to join the PGR on their outings. All that is required is a desire for a little exercise and maybe a garbage sack and pair of gloves. The group often goes for dinner afterwards at a local restaurant to continue their fellowship.
"It is fun to do something good and give back a little," Rios said. "We normally have around 15 people each week but anyone is welcome to join us."