BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – How many times have you said to yourself, “someone should do something about that?”
Well, this week’s Getting Results Award winners had that thought - then decided to do it themselves.
Sharon Noll, Sherill Spaccio, Sandra Leone and Michelle Fitzgerald were tired of seeing trash right next to our waterways.
They soon discovered - they weren’t alone.
The four women started the Pineda Waterway Warriors, a nonprofit dedicated to educating the community about the causes and harmful impacts of waterway debris while providing opportunities to be actively involved in debris cleanup.
The organization attracts dozens of volunteers to their bi-monthly cleanups, but they started with humble beginnings.
The sun had barely risen above the Pineda Causeway in Brevard County as dozens of volunteers started showing up at nearby P.O.W./M.I.A. Park.
The group helped host and support this year’s International Coastal Cleanup Day along the four-mile stretch between US-1 and A1A.
“So we’ll have roughly 300 people like little ants all over the causeway,” Noll said. “And our goal is to remove the trash before it gets into the waterway.”
Noll has been walking this roadside, picking up trash, for years.
“Sharon was cleaning up the trash all by herself,” Spaccio said, recounting that they had all seen her and the trash bags she left behind.
“I traveled the Pineda every day, back and forth constantly. And I noticed Sharon’s white bags on the side of the road. And I got very angry. And I said, this is not right, we need to just do something about this.”
“Same thing with Sandra, she saw this crazy lady, that’s what she called her, putting trash out by the roadway that made her angry.”
Spaccio and Leone didn’t realize Noll had been collecting trash and piling the bags up afterward for collection.
“That was her alone time,” Spaccio said. “She would just go out and do things by herself. And then we showed up and now she’s not alone anymore.”
The four women eventually met at a separate cleanup event and hit it off.
“We just started talking. And we realized that all four of us had the same heart, the same mindset.” Spaccio said. “We decided, well, let’s clean up the Pineda together.”
For months, it was just the four of them but eventually others started joining their efforts. Now, the nonprofit has branched out to include groups that clean up other areas along the Indian River.
Lindsey Westfall and a group of coworkers from L3 Harris were collecting debris along the northside embankments.
“We’re finding lots of plastic and cans, lots of cigarette butts,” Westfall said as she held a trash bag open. “It feels great to get out here and clean up our area. My bag is getting pretty heavy pretty fast though.”
Just up the road, Corey Mullen was documenting what her group picked up for a citizen scientist element of the event.
“I’m pretty passionate about making sure that our wildlife have a pretty safe environment to live in,” Mullen said about coming out for the bi-monthly cleanup. “I think this is a great opportunity for people to get involved especially since it’s an ongoing thing. It’s not something that’s a one-time commitment. So I feel like it’s accommodating to people’s schedules.”
Mullen said she’s inspired by the Pineda Waterway Warriors story.
“It’s so important to start doing something and every little bit helps,” Mullins said. “I think it’s really special that the 1% can infect the 10%, and the 10% could eventually become 100%. That’s my dream and my goal. I think that if enough people get involved, then the community can come together and we can all be part of making sure the waterway stays clean.”
The Pineda Waterway Warriors just celebrated the two-year anniversary of registering as a nonprofit.
“I’ve learned that our community loves our environment,” Spaccio said. “It’s very moving to see how much passion they have. The same as us.”
Just before noon most of the volunteers were returning, sunburned and exhausted but with a sense of satisfaction that they had made a difference.
“This has been a great day,” Spaccio said as she loaded bags of trash onto a boat to be taken back to the docks. “We’re so excited, so happy. We made a difference for our lagoon and our waterways today, and we’ll be back.”
The Pineda Waterway Warriors meet at 8 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays at the south tropical trail underpass.