Together, this group is cleaning up
Members of PICA have found it is a way to become active and gain lifetime friendships with a group of people doing good.
PICA, which stands for Pride in Community Appearance, began in 2002, a creation of Jan and Phyllis Wilson, of Fort Dodge. It is one of only two groups in Iowa doing this unique volunteer service.
Back in 2000 the Wilson’s had recently retired and wanted to stay active — and be outside whenever they could. For a few years they travelled down to Texas and helped clean up various cities around the area.
“We went to Texas every year to help beautify certain communities in the winter after we retired in 2002,” said Phyllis Wilson. “Then we realized we didn’t have to travel all the way to Texas to get active, we could also do it in our own community.”
From there, PICA was born. It has since grown with a large cast of helpful volunteers.
A typical Tuesday or Thursday for PICA consists of meeting at 8:45 a.m. and doing various jobs around the area. That work may include raking leaves and debris, landscaping, planting flowers or painting.
“We do stop at 10 a.m. to take a quick snack break, and the snacks are always delicious,” said Pat Cox, a PICA member since 2008.
Leo Byrne, who has been involved since the beginning, was also looking for something active to do after retiring.
“I was referred to Jan and Phyllis, and I have been glad I joined ever since because PICA helps make Fort Dodge look so much better. Also, if I hadn’t joined, I wouldn’t have met all the wonderful people involved.”
Larry Lee, a longtime friend of the Wilsons, has also been involved with PICA since the beginning.
“This organization has tremendously improved the looks of the city in various ways, and once we started the rest of the town caught on and began improving the looks of Fort Dodge.”
PICA does a lot of work behind the scenes for annual events, including cleaning up the Oleson Park Bandshell before the Karl King Band concerts or preparing the area at the Harlan and Hazel Rodgers Sports Complex before Shellabration.
Some of their most notable projects include their work at the Veterans Park, the Fort Dodge Public Library, the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, the flower bed east of Fort Dodge Senior High, and the Fort Dodge sign out near the Best Western Starlite Inn & Suites.
“This is not a organization where you have to micromanage anyone because everyone comes willing to work,” Kim Alstott, a Fort Dodge city councilman who has been a member since 2011.
Joining PICA means being surrounded by people who are always willing to work, members said.
“PICA not only helps make the city look better, it is also great exercise and a way for us to show our pride within the community,” said Nancy Spire, who has been a PICA member since 2012.
PICA finds projects by driving around and looking. Or the city will sometimes call asking if PICA can clean up an area.
Kathy Taylor and her grandson, Keaton, have been involved with PICA for the past few years.
“It is a great way for us to spend time together in the spring and summer time while being outside, and we don’t come to PICA weekly because we have to, we come each week because it is where we want to be.”
PICA meets from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from April through early November.
“You don’t have to come to the meetings every time to be part of PICA. If you have other obligations that day, we do not hold it against you,” Jan Wilson said.
“Ever since joining PICA I have made many friendships with great people who I enjoy working with,” Lee said.
The group has even been recognized in Washington, D.C., with a Keep America Beautiful Award. This is in addition to its two awards for excellence from Keep Iowa Beautiful.
“Everyone involved in PICA has been just wonderful, and we are truly blessed with all the wonderful volunteers we have gained since the time we have started. They’ve been coming for years helping beautify the landscapes and various areas throughout Fort Dodge,” Jan Wilson said.