Tennessee Grandfather Cleans Up Creek, Wins Volunteer Award
Sierra Club members Carl and Iva Lee Wolfe moved from Florida to Mountain City, Tennessee, three years ago, after Carl retired. That's Carl at left, above, with granddaughter Mariah.
"We were impressed with the beauty of the area," says Iva Lee. "But the condition of the road and the nearby Falls at Fall Branch was a disgrace." For years people had been tossing trash onto Fall Branch Road and dumping garbage, tires, old appliances, gas tanks, and assorted junk into the branch, which flows into Lake Watauga, a source of drinking water for the area.
After finishing work on the couple's mobile home, Carl, then 68, began venturing out to bag trash along the road. But he soon deepened his commitment—literally—rappelling 50 feet down into the creek to clean up trash at the base of the falls. "Some folks said it couldn't be done," he says, "but when someone tells me I can't do something, I want to prove I can."
The pace picked up in 2007 when Mariah moved to town and began helping out, pulling up the trash by rope that her grandfather had bagged. Over the last six months they have hauled more than 60 large garbage bags out of the creek. A few are pictured above, emblazoned with Carl's handwritten message.
Carl and Iva Lee speak at Kiwanis and Sierra Club meetings, encouraging others to get involved. Carl also volunteers at the local recycling center and transfer station. This fall he was nominated by the mayor for a Governor's Volunteer Award, presented by Volunteer Tennessee to one person from each county in the state. Carl received his award on October 27, below, in Nashville.
"Carl is a humble man," says Iva Lee, "but he hopes this will motivate more people to volunteer and get involved in the community. This isn't our land; it's provided for us. We're the caretakers, and we could all be better stewards."