A Fort Dodge service organization dedicated to beautifying the community has begun its first projects of the 2013 season.
Pride In Community Appearance - PICA - started its first project of the year Thursday morning removing debris, raking and placing fresh mulch in the block around the Municipal Building.
The group will continue with similar projects near the Northwest Bank building, Citizens Central and the Fort Dodge Public Library in the coming weeks before branching out to various projects around the city.
PICA volunteer Larry Lee scoops leaves and sticks into a wheelbarrow during the group’s first project of the year.
"Traditionally we start at City Hall," said Jan Wilson, a founding member of PICA. "Then we move west toward Webster County buildings, the senior center and the library. Those are usually our first few projects."
Wilson said the group typically begins projects in April, and weather permitting, continues to meet weekly through early November.
Since beginning in 2002, members of the group have logged more than 20,000 hours of service to the community.
In January, PICA was honored for its efforts when the group was named a first-place recipient of a Keep America Beautiful Award.
PICA members raised enough money to send Wilson and his wife, Phyllis, also a PICA volunteer, to Washington, D.C., to accept the award.
"It was a nice experience to be there and accept the award for this team of people," said Jan Wilson. "We have some of the best volunteers."
The awards are presented in various categories to groups and communities of different sizes. Phyllis Wilson said it was unique to have PICA and Fort Dodge selected as a recipient.
"We were the only group that I know of that wasn't a city organization, maybe even the only ones who weren't members of Keep America Beautiful," she said.
They were also one of just a few projects to be recognized that is an ongoing effort.
"We're not a one-time project," said Phyllis Wilson. "We had one of the most unique groups."
PICA meets at 9 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday and welcomes new volunteers.
"If anyone wants to see what we are about they can just show up at the site for the day," said Phyllis Wilson. "We always post where we will be every week."
The group has around 70 volunteers, with attendance varying from week to week.
"Every week we have a different group," said Jan Wilson. "Some come out all of the time or maybe one day a week or just whenever they can make it, but they are very dedicated volunteers."