Volunteer Spotlight: Robert Callahan

Volunteer Spotlight: Robert Callahan

Keep Highway Park Beautiful Executive Director Evelyn Colon always says, "Small community, big hearts. Our volunteers are the life-blood of our organization."

Perhaps none better exemplies big-heartedness more than Robert Callahan, this week's Volunteer Spotlight.

Highway Park is a historic, predominantly African-American, "unincorporated" community about  1.2 miles south of the town of Lake Placid, Florida. Colon points out that almost a century ago,  the ancestors of Highway Park created a community from unwanted land -- a sandpit, swamp, and graveyard, which, it's thought, might have been an old slave, Native American or old homestead burial ground.

While there are a number of volunteers that support Keep Highway Park Beautiful's Great American Cleanup initiatives, Colon says that Callahan deserves recognition because of his absolute dedication. "He is always the first to arrive at the job site and the last to leave," she said.

From sunrise to sunset, Callahan takes on any and all tasks that are needed to be done. Beyond the Great American Cleanup, if Callahan spots any litter or debris, he picks it up and is single-handedly keeping Highway Parks's small commercial district clean. This was particularly important after the restoration of the Elbow District, Highway Park's commercial section which encompasses its three major streets.

He cares for the new plantings and is often seen pulling weeds. He also laid multiple pallets of grass on his own. When asked why he took this on by himself, he replied in his matter-of-fact fashion, "I don't want the grass to die and we needed to get it planted."

A very humble, unassumming and kind-hearted individual, it's known around the neighborhood that if you want help, you ask Callahan.

"He is modest and doesn't seek recogntion, but is deserving of so much," said Colon. "Not only does he volunteer, but his work is alwaysof the best quality."

It's small-town volunteers such as Callahan that help Keep America Beautiful and its affiliates transform public spaces into beautiful places.