By Sky Temperato
With as many as 75 volunteers preparing for their 10th year of helping clean Masonboro Island following the annual Independence Day festivities, Masonboro.org organizers said there is room to join their ranks, as volunteers are still needed for this year’s annual July Fourth cleanup.
Masonboro.org co-founder and Coastal Reserve Local Advisory Council member Richard Johnson said the cleanup is similar to a military operation, with as much as 5,000 pounds of trash hauled off the island each year. The volunteers’ efforts help keep the island open to visitors year-round. People interested in volunteering can do so through the website at Masonboro.org.
Volunteers provide their boats for cleanup and Sweet and Savory supplies the volunteers with food. Even the trash bags are donated.
The organization’s volunteers will arrive on the island the morning of July Fourth and distribute trash bags to the public. They will spend the rest of the day walking the beach collecting full bags of partiers’ empty cans and garbage.
“Fortunately, they do fill up most of the trash bags we give them,” Johnson said. “We’re not picking trash off the beach; we’re just grabbing the trash bags the kids have filled.”
Aside from the number of boats needed to ferry volunteers back and forth from Masonboro Island, the organization also ensures that there are enough boats to quickly remove all volunteers from the Island in the case of a storm.
Masonboro.org’s May fundraiser was their “best year ever,” according to Johnson. Raising over $20,000, the organization spent less than a fourth of the money raised on the cleanup. Instead, the organization relies on mostly donations to preserve Masonboro Island’s beaches.
“We are really a community organization, and our fundraiser is as casual as we are,” Johnson said. “It’s more of a dock party.”
Held at Bradley Creek Marina, the fundraiser has live music, food vendors including Vito’s Pizza and C-Street Mexican Grill, as well as Texas Tackle and OBX providing products for an auction. However, 90 percent of the money raised comes from donations, said Johnson.
Masonboro.org devotes most of its efforts on the Masonboro Island Explorer program, where volunteers take every fifth-grade student from public New Hanover County schools on a Masonboro Island on a field trip. The organization already has all the program’s money raised for next year.
The purpose of the explorer program is to educate students on the resources and traditions of Masonboro Island and demonstrate the importance of preserving the Island. The program started in 2013 with only 50 students and has since grown to about 2,000 students from every public school in New Hanover County. A possibility for expansion may include reaching out to private schools in the area so that more fifth-graders could participate in the program, Johnson said.