“It’s more than just picking up trash”
On an early Saturday morning in August, fog rises from the New River as the sun gains strength. A small group of volunteers gather at the New River Wildlife and Conservation Club (NRWCC) across the road from the banks of the New River in Fries, Virginia. They gathered for one reason only, their love of the New River. 11 women and men of all ages and walks of life. They gathered to take a training class to become New River Conservancy Water Watchers. They included Keith Andrews, volunteer extraordinaire and humble servant all rolled into one man. He has over thirty-five years of experience in instructional design and technical training, experiential learning, human resources management, and organizational planning, but don’t ask him about that.
Keith Andrews doesn’t really like to talk about himself. He would rather talk about any or all of the organizations that he is devoted to and passionate about, and if possible, connect the dots between two or more of those. His passion for the New River began during his student days at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, VA. He says “I went to Tech, and also worked at Celanese. The New River has been a part of my life since college.”
A lovely gentleman with a twinkle in his eyes and an unflagging spirt, Keith is a busy man. Not only does he volunteer for the New River Conservancy and is a newly -trained Water Watcher, he is a member of the New River Wildlife and Conservation Club in Fries, VA, a member of Grayson Landcare, on the board of directors for the Blue Ridge Discovery Center, and is also a volunteer and instructor with the VA Dept. of Wildlife Resources (DWR). All of these organizations are either working in the New River or peripheral to it.
When asked about New River Cleanups he mentions one back in 2005 where they pulled out 600 – 700 tires in one cleanup. “We’re getting better. We’re building the next generation of stewards for the New River here.” For him, educating the next generation to the importance of stewardship and service is vital. “It’s more than just picking trash out of the river. It’s education.”
One of the things he is most proud of is the Grayson County “August is Clean River Month” initiative, which the NRWCC initiated and pushed. “It formed the basis of much of what we have promoted, supported, coordinated and led including the river bags and stands, clinics such as Fish of the New, in river cleanups, and the Water Watchers clinic and group in Grayson County.” He continues “August is the lowest and cleanest month for the New River. We do one cleanup per week in the New and its tributaries.”
When introducing Keith to the group that Saturday morning, Elizabeth Underwood, Executive Director for NRC, says “We are forever indebted to Keith Andrews.” We are indeed, and we are honored to call him a friend of ours and a friend of the river.