The Retrieving With EVIE Program began in 2007 when the Harps initiated an anti-litter program to help Keep Evansville Beautiful in their mission to prevent litter. Susan had written a children’s book about litter and enlisted Jon Siau, a local award winning high school art teacher, to create the wonderful illustrations for her book. With secured funding from Fifth Third Bank to publish the book, the program seemed to be progressing; but the Harps knew something was missing if they were going to successfully educate impressionable citizens by encouraging them to assume responsibility for their environment.
In the book, the main character is a little dog named EVIE who goes around the city with her dad trying to retrieve all the litter she sees. She begins to realize that there is more litter than she could ever retrieve alone. EVIE knows she needs help to rid the community of all the litter. EVIE’s name is a bacronym for Every Volunteer Is Essential to keep the Earth beautiful.
The Harps decided the EVIE character needed to be an active participant in the program, so they purchased the “real” EVIE puppy. This was the “aha moment” in the program. EVIE represents the philosophy that every volunteer is essential in keeping Evansville beautiful. Through our understanding of a child’s natural love of animals we knew that EVIE’s outlook on litter and her desire to retrieve could capture the attention of Evansville’s youngest citizens and future leaders of our community, but The Retrieving With EVIE Program exceeded our highest expectations and dreams. EVIE’s work has become a motivational tool for citizens of all ages in our community and all across the United States.
EVIE visits area classrooms and other community events to promote anti-litter with the help of Keep Evansville Beautiful staff and her human dad. Her mom goes with them when she isn’t teaching. We have visited 478 individual classrooms, 20 whole school presentations, and attended 205 different venues in the community. The visits are arranged per requests from teachers or directors of community venues. EVIE is booked months in advance. The visits are free of charge in Vanderburgh County and currently a small fee is charged for other counties. The visit begins with Keep Evansville Beautiful’s Education Coordinator reading EVIE’s book and engaging the audience with thought provoking questions. The audience then views an interactive DVD that was created for the program through partnership with our Public Broadcasting Station, WNIN. Various other power points are substituted depending upon the age level of the audience. Group discussions range from where we see litter to what could have been done with the items instead of littering. EVIE’s program focuses on teaching to reduce, reuse, and recycle in order to rid the Earth of litter. The presentations include air, land and water resources as targets of this litter that pollutes our environment. At this point in the 45 minute presentation, the presenter asks, “Would you like to see EVIE retrieve litter?” EVIE is then escorted out of the room while her volunteers hide three pieces of litter (paper, plastic water bottle, and an aluminum can). The audience answers questions pertaining to the three pieces and how they impact our environment. When EVIE is called back into the room, she is told to find the litter. EVIE is a natural as she races around classrooms picking up the litter and returning it to her dad. Her human volunteers tell the children that if everyone would pick up three pieces of litter every day, the Earth would be so much cleaner. This is the point in the visit that really convinces the audience to join the anti-litter efforts. The program concludes as the audience sings EVIE’s motivational song about litter and they are given a bookmark/pledge card. The audience takes the pledge to help EVIE by picking up three pieces of litter every day. Each person also receives an EVIE litter bag. A curriculum developed by Susan Harp is provided for the teachers in order to extend the lesson. Additional activities and resources are provided to remind the groups of their promise to help. This curriculum covers many educational areas and addresses the Indiana Core Curriculum.
The Retrieving With EVIE Program has been instrumental in creating many service-learning projects throughout our community among citizens of all ages. EVIE has encouraged many students, teachers, citizens of all ages, businesses, community officials, and community leaders to pick up litter and to recycle. We have actively participated in 35 of these cleanups. Green Teams and Environmental Groups at schools have taken their work to a new level after we share our program with them. Youth Litter Patrol groups are always working around the community as a result of our emphasis on volunteerism and civic responsibility. This past year groups of adults who are physically and mentally handicapped have started participating in litter cleanups on a regular basis. The assistants with these adults have shared some touching stories about these adults wanting to go out and help the Earth. They wear our Keep Evansville Beautiful shirts with pride as they make their best attempts to pick up litter and love it when EVIE goes along with them. All three universities in our community have EVIE visit and participate with the students. EVIE leaves pawprints on people’s hearts and makes them remember her message to take care of the Earth. She encourages the students to study and continue to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Daycare facilities, church groups, senior citizen groups, nursing homes, scout troops, police sponsored groups, neighborhood groups, college students, regular classrooms, community events, river cleanup groups, and more have taken civic responsibility to a new level because of our encouragement through the Retrieving With EVIE Program. There have been so many testimonies from parents and teachers who tell us that a child has insisted on picking up litter because EVIE says they should. Strangers come up to us and start talking to EVIE about how they are helping her clean the Earth now. EVIE is a regular each month with the Mayor’s Clean Evansville initiative as we work to pick up litter in different parts of the community. Recently as EVIE left a local inner city Y.M.C.A. after a presentation, she had to walk past a group of older youth who had not been at the presentation. One of the teens said, “Move …here comes a dog.” Another high school teen replied, “That isn’t a dog; that is EVIE.” He knew EVIE and had helped her do a community cleanup. His fellow teens were intrigued after he asked EVIE to find litter. Her work sends the message to all that …..if you work hard enough you can make a difference. She has been able to accomplish more than us humans could ever expect to in our efforts to get rid of litter and trash while emphasizing….EVERY VOLUNTEER IS ESSENTIAL.
The Retrieving With EVIE Program has logged close to 800 hours working to educate through our service learning philosophy. We have shared the anti-litter message with 40,000 citizens since 2007. Over 500 of EVIE’s books were given to all public, private and parochial schools in Vanderburgh and Warrick County. Kindergarten classes, 1st grade classes, 2nd grades, and school libraries were the initial recipients. The book is available at our public and private libraries throughout the community. The Rotary Club chose EVIE’s book for the Rotary Readers as they read to every 1st grade child in Vanderburgh County. The program has also expanded through another venture with PBS/Kids Go and WNIN. We partnered to create a webgame that met the stringent requirements for PBS/Kids Go. This Retrieving With EVIE webgame features another story, matching games, word searches, an interactive litter game which requires recycling knowledge, and finally a quiz about best practices to be environmentally smart. In this game, as well as in the above mentioned DVD created with WNIN, kids were the actors/actresses which was an awesome motivational tool. Another child became the “voice” of EVIE in the DVD.
At the community events when we can’t do presentations, EVIE draws the crowd to our booth and then the humans ask questions about the environment. Everyone who leaves our booth has been showered with eco-friendly tidbits. EVIE was invited to share her program at a Live Positively Event/ Kids Eco Fest at Dollywood Theme Park and Dollywood Splash Country in 2011. Keep Sevier Beautiful visited with every 2nd grade in Sevier County (70) to read EVIE’s book and gave them a copy of the book to keep. EVIE’s visit to the Smokey Mountains was a special treat for those kids and their families. Over 1400 Tennessee residents signed huge banners pledging to pick up three pieces of litter every day. Many communities all over the US have started using our anti-litter program. Las Cruces, New Mexico was so impressed with the program and implemented a similar program using a Yellow Labrador (LIBBY) to educate their citizens on littering and recycling. They read EVIE’s book to the students in Las Cruces on these visits. The Tennessee Safety Spotters (two deaf Dalmatians and their owner) have been reading the EVIE book and sharing her 3 a day with children in Memphis just this past week.
Our program, Keep Evansville Beautiful, EVIE, and the Harps have all been recognized on a national level for this effort. In 2008, the Retrieving With EVIE Program received a First Place in the nation for Litter Prevention at the Keep America Beautiful National Conference in Washington, D.C. EVIE was the hit of the convention as affiliates from 40 states raved over our initiatives and the work that EVIE was doing to educate people and encourage civic responsibility. The program received another First Place in the nation for Litter Prevention in 2010 at the Keep America Beautiful National Conference in Orlando, Florida. This award was presented for our PBS/Kids Go webgame. Affiliates from all over the US were thrilled to have the webgame for use in their own communities. In 2011, EVIE and Keep Evansville Beautiful were awarded the Mayor’s Sustainability Award for Education. Working in all four counties in Southern Indiana was criteria for this award. The following are some more awards/recognitions that we have received for this program and our efforts.
EVIE, the Harps, and Keep Evansville Beautiful – The Red Cross Hero Award
Retrieving With EVIE program – Leadership of Evansville Award
Retrieving With EVIE program – Indiana General Assembly Resolution
Steve Harp, EVIE, and KEB– Spirit of Giving recognition from Vanderburgh
EVIE – One of five dogs in the US in 2010 with USA Today for their Heroes Award
Pick of the Litter Award from Westside Improvement Association
American Kennel Club recognition for her efforts
Deputized as an Honorary Deputy by our Sheriff for Vanderburgh County
Featured in the American Dog magazine for her anti-litter work
Susan Harp also felt her recognition as one of five teachers in the US for My Favorite
Teacher from the National Federation of Republican Women, the Bish
Thompson Award as “Friend of Youth”, and Governor Daniel’s
Distinguished Hoosier Award were awarded in part for her efforts to
establish this program.
While we are thrilled to be honored with these awards, the best reward for our group is to hear other citizens sharing our message. To know that we have inspired others through our program encourages us to work even harder.
EVIE and the Retrieving With EVIE Program have brought a new sense of community
effort and responsibility among children, parents, and other citizens in our city and beyond. The response to help EVIE pick up litter has been astounding! When she performs in classrooms, she does so with such robust that it inspires all who watch. Paw by Paw…. this program is reaching out to our next generation to assure that our Earth will be a litter-free place. Teachers request the Retrieving With EVIE Program to help inspire each new group of students. Litter is an universal concern of every city, state, and country. No one can seem to escape the ugliness created by our societies’ carelessness and lack of responsibility in taking care of our environment, but our efforts have helped citizens realize that each step does indeed make a difference. They have taken our pledge to help the Earth and are committed to share what they have learned.
EVIE will have another book EVIE Goes Clean and Green coming out later this year. We are already planning new activities to introduce the philosophy of sustainability and how to be eco-friendly in all of our actions. We will incorporate these concepts into our anti-litter program and make many more visits to venues encouraging others to engage in meaningful community service which will benefit our Earth.