When Gene Phifer saw that parts of the Coosa River near his community had become filled with debris, he organized a small volunteer group to remove the garbage from those waters. Now, 17 years later, more than 100,000 volunteers have removed over 14 million pounds of debris from southeastern waterways through what is now known as the Renew Our Rivers program.
Renew Our Rivers is a company-sponsored volunteer effort that aims to keep waterways throughout the Southeast healthy through regular cleanups. The award-winning environmental stewardship program is a collaborative partnership between Southern Company subsidiaries and communities throughout the Southeast.
“Renew Our Rivers is a unique partnership that includes businesses, federal and state agencies and community residents united by a common cause–the preservation of our waterways,” says founder and Alabama Power retiree Gene Phifer. “Through the coordinated efforts of those people and entities, we have accomplished a lot.”
While the program is improving rivers and waterways for future generations to enjoy, it is also educating communities on the impact of litter and the importance of conservation efforts. “We remove stoves, ovens, gasoline containers–you name it,” explains Gene. “Volunteers can’t believe some of the things they are finding in the very sources of the water they drink.”
Today, Renew Our Rivers touches almost every major river system in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, with company coordinators in each state facilitating volunteer cleanup efforts. Mike Clelland, Alabama Power environmental specialist, works closely with colleagues across the system to ensure the program’s continued success.
“As the Southern Company footprint expands, so does the impact of Renew Our Rivers,” remarks Mike. “We have covered thousands of miles of shoreline and we continue to grow. This program is making a tremendous difference for our local communities.”