KAB Presidents

  • 1977 Bob Kearns
  • 1978 Bob Kearns
  • 1979 Bob Kearns
  • 1980 Leon Peterson
  • 1981 Leon Peterson
  • 1982 Robert Wilber
  • 1983 Dr. Gil Wehmeier
  • 1984 Chiquita Cornelius
  • 1985 Velma Paris
  • 1986 Velma Paris
  • 1987 Carl Folster
  • 1988 Wim Chulindra
  • 1989 Wim Chulindra
  • 1990 Dale Cushinberry
  • 1991 Dale Cushinberry
  • 1992 Dan Dagosta
  • 1993 Dan Dagosta
  • 1994 Dan Dagosta
  • 1995 Gary Slimmer
  • 1996 Gary Slimmer
  • 1997 Marty Gies
  • 1998 Marty Gies
  • 1999 Kathy Dechand
  • 2000 Kathy Dechand
  • 2001 Kathy Dechand
  • 2002 Dale Cushinberry
  • 2003 Dale Cushinberry
  • 2004 Mark Benaka
  • 2005 Mark Benaka
  • 2006 Kim Nettleton
  • 2007 Kent Foerster/Dale Cushinberry
  • 2008 Armond Enclarde
  • 2009 Armond Enclarde
  • 2010 Bill Riphahn
  • 2011 Bill Riphahn
  • 2012 Bill Riphahn
  • 2013 Bill Riphahn
  • 2014 Bill Riphahn
  • 2015 Bill Riphahn
  • 2016 Tim Harrington
  • 2017 Tim Harrington
  • 2018 Bill Riphahn
  • 2019 Jim Robinson
  • 2020 Jim Robinson
  • 2021 Paula Hladky


On July 15, 1977, Keep America Beautiful-Topeka/Shawnee County was certified. At that time, it was known as the Litter Control Commission of Topeka and Shawnee County. The coordinator was Robert Peele. In May of 1998, the name was officially changed to Keep America Beautiful-Topeka/Shawnee County.

Through the years, Keep America Beautiful-Topeka/Shawnee County (KAB) has implemented programs, partnered in programs, helped to promote programs, and been a participant in educational events. Our Recycling Directory had become a necessary handbook to those wishing to recycle.

Our KAB programs include: Great America Cleanup, Project Takeover/Makeover, the Galamba Metal Aluminum Can Recycling Program, tire amnesties, Free Landfill Day, Free Yard Waste Disposal Day, e-waste collections, confidential document destruction, Topeka Cemetery Cleanup, Topeka Beautification/KAB Greater Topeka Landscape Contest, Wana-Make Wanamaker Better, Mission Possible, KAB Extreme Team, KAB Trash Troopers, Lake Shawnee Friends of the Gardens, Project ReDirectory, KAB/Sam’s Club/Aquafina Students for Recycling, and America Recycles Day.

Programs that we help to promote include: Adopt-A Highway, Adopt-A-Park, Adopt-A-Street, Adopt-A-Shoreline, NIA and NA cleanups, and Household Hazardous Waste collections.

Educational participations include: Kansas Lawn and Garden Show, Earth Day at the Capitol, History and Environmental Fair, Project Wet-Topeka Water Festival and Safari Edventure.

1977 – Long time supporters of KAB, Chiquita Cornelius, Pat Powers and Marge Heeney were present at the very beginning of KAB. In June of 1977, meetings began and committees were formed. On July 12th, at a Shawnee County Commission approved a resolution in support of the “Clean Community System” sponsored by the Women’s Division of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce. In August, Bob Kearns was introduced as the first Chairman of KAB. Robert Peele was designated to direct the organization with Kearns, and Chiquita Cornelius was elected Treasurer. The first Photometric Survey was held in November. The first budget was $2,395.00.

The “Original Committee of 9” was formed including:
Marguerite Arace
Lynn Couch
Steven Haley
Vic Hamersky
Flo Herman
Tuula Mills
Helen Nash
Bonnie Severson
Linda Warnow

plus Bob Kearns, Chiquita Cornelius and Robert Peele


1977 – Events are held each year in celebration of Keep America Beautiful week. Highlights of the KAB week this year included a bus tour with city officials to litter sites and getting trash bags donated to give to the March of Dimes March, and encouraging people to pick up litter during the walk.

1979 – Meetings were held twice a month, and the name was changed to Litter Control Commission.

1980 – Keep America Beautiful events were held with Topekans in Action. First free landfill day.

1981 – No records found.

1982 – This year meetings were held once a month. Dale Cushinberry reported on NIA activity. Josten’s held a major cleanup this year during KAB week. Work is begun on the “Adopt-A-Park program.” Fidelity Bank held a free tree giveaway.

1983 – Sheriff Ritchey came up with an idea for a county wide cleanup. The county would be divided into sections, with volunteer groups within that section enlisted to clean up their section. Then the trash would be taken to a central dumping place. Food would be procured from people in that area for the volunteers. The county covers 640 square miles. This effort could easily encompass 1,000 people. Litter survey showed an increase in litter for the first time. Illegal dump site issues were addressed. At the Go Fourth Celebration at Washburn University “Stash the Trash” signs were posted near trash receptacles. Warning signs were posted at possible illegal dump sites.

1984 – This year Mr. Peele indicated that he would like to be replaced as coordinator.

1985 – This year KAB has joined the office of Kansas Beverage Industry Recycling Program or KS BIRP. Chiquita Cornelius is President. Funding options were discussed as it appeared that the public dollars will no longer be available. Bill Nash of national Keep America Beautiful indicated that the strongest and most active programs were funded from the private sector, instead of the public. It was noted that corporate contributions were almost non-existent in this community at this time.

1986 – First Brighten Your Corner Award held. Environmental Court established and hearing cases. KAB participated in the Lawn and Garden Show.

1987 – Jerold Binkley presented a plan to landscape the gazebo at the Expo Center using the proceeds from his private tulip tour. This year the Model Block Program was introduced. It was a program designed to improve a block in a neighbor using federal grants and matching funds from the private sector. Great improvements and beautification efforts are made within that area. The Avenue of Trees, a project to plant trees from Forbes Field to 10th Street was begun.

The 10th Anniversary of KAB was celebrated this year. Accomplishments included:
-thousands of litterbags distributed
-Adopt-A-Park program
-Neighborhood Improvement Association cleanups
-Free landfill days
-anti-litter signage
-Brighten Your Corner Awards established
-Environmental Court established
-recycling programs expanded
-Avenue of Trees implemented

Topeka was the 72nd city certified under the Keep America Beautiful system.

1988 – Till Star Recycling opens this year. This year KAB week has evolved into a month long KAB celebration.

1989 – No records found

1990 – Proposal is made to charge surcharge on solid waste to implement programs in the area of environmental concerns. Flyer created and distributed for every truck owner regarding statutes. Public Lands day held at Lake Perry with 150 participants. First Project ReDirectory, phone book recycling event held.

1991 – Chiquita presented a copy of the KS BIRP Directory. It was suggested that it be made available at the Kansas Lawn and Garden Show. Shawnee County received a grant of $56,000 to implement the Household Hazardous Waste Collection. Adopt A Highway program is being considered. Environmental Fair held at Fairlawn Mall. In June of this year, Robert Peele, one of the founders of LCC passed away. In July, founder Chuck Marson passed away, and it was suggested that the “Avenue of Trees” be completed in his honor. Three model blocks will be sponsored this year, instead of one. Public Lands Day held at Lake Perry with Smokey the Bear involving over 100 volunteers.

1992 – A permanent HHW site was established and run by the County at Forbes Field. Capital City Pallet purchased a tub grinder for pallets, construction debris and trees. Kathy Dechand’s Girl Scout troop placed second in the Youth Organization Category at the National KAB convention. Legislation of $1.50 per ton charge on waste disposed of was passed to go into effect January 1, 1993.

1993 – Terry Bertels expressed desire to have a city composting program as they are currently burning wood and need to compost.

1994 – KDHE held Earth Day at the zoo in April. Compost bin program by Shawnee County Extension and Master Gardeners begins. Fourteen houses were painted for the Great American Cover Up.

1995 – Kathy Dechand’s Girl Scout Troop was award First Place National Award-Youth Category for their Clean Up You’re A.C.T. program.

1996 – 17,000 tires collected at the tire amnesty. Topeka Waste Systems implemented a new curbside recycling program.

1997 – KDHE promotes “Kansas Don’t Spoil It” campaign. New national KAB president is hired, G. Raymond Empson. National KAB requested that each affiliate include “beautiful” in their name. The Executive Committee recommended “Keep America Beautiful-Topeka/Shawnee County. The Model Block program has revitalized 212 houses on sixteen blocks since 1986.

1998 – Litter Control Commission name officially changed to Keep America Beautiful-Topeka/Shawnee County in May of 1998. Topeka Waste Systems discontinued curbside recycling in spring of 1998. Mayor’s Mowing Assistance Program (MAP), a program to enlist volunteers to mow yards for the elderly, physically challenged and low income people was introduced. The Recovery Technology Program (R TECH) introduced by Clif Hess of Washburn Rural High School. Model Block monies not approved in time for planning. “Waste In Place” program created and distributed to three schools. America Recycles Day celebration theme “Buy Recycled.”

1999 – Scouts “Wanna Make Wanamaker Better” project received a national award. Sadly, Iron Eyes Cody, the national icon, passed away this year.

2000 – First Topeka Cemetery cleanup.

2001 – KAB was instrumental in promoting 1-800 advertising signs posted in the county be removed. September meeting was cancelled due to the terrorist bombing of 9/11. First tire amnesty by Shawnee County Recycling.

2002 – 25th anniversary of our local KAB affiliate held at Gage Park. Earth Day event at Gage Park. Beginning of Lake Shawnee beautification project. Great American Cleanup is now a three month event. Kansas Birp launches Keep Kansas Beautiful. Cell phones were collected for America Recycles Day.

2003 – Kaw River (Galamba) announces bonus for KAB customers. What a Wonderful World America Recycles Day Festival was held in November.

2004 – Monroe Re-Development Project was a makeover of that area. Chiquita announced the phasing out of Kansas Business and Industry Recycling Program.

2005 – Mayor Bill Bunten appointed a task force to help determine the focus and formulate a plan on cleaning up Topeka. This year the KAB office moved to BRB Contractors building at 3805 NW 25th. Chiquita Cornelius, Executive Director, retired from Kansas BIRP, Keep Kansas Beautiful and KAB. In August, Philicia McKee, was hired as the new Executive Director. KAB Bylaws updated. Inmate litter cleanup crews begin.

2006 – New programs this year included: KAB Extreme Team, a volunteer group with goes out each month to hold cleanups in areas of extreme litter; KAB Trash Troopers, a group of health minded individuals were encouraged to take a trash bag and pick up litter when they go walking; Earth Day at the Capitol; the St. Patrick’s Day Parade “Waste Brigade”; and Project Takeover/Makeover, a city wide cleanup held over 4 weekends in partnership with the City of Topeka and Shawnee County. Over 945 volunteers removed 3 million pounds of litter, trash and debris from our neighborhoods. A spin off group was formed, Topeka’s Terrific Tremendously Talented Tree Trimming Team. This group goes into very public areas and trims trees and shrubs to improve the appearance of our community. A Troy Bilt Chipper/shredder/vac was donated to Topeka Cemetery and 2,000 fleece jackets made from recycled plastic were donated to Topeka Rescue Mission.  National KAB awards included:  Affiliate 2nd place and Waste Management of Kansas 1st place.

2007 – Celebrating 30 years promoting recycling, litter reduction and beautification in Topeka and Shawnee County. New website for KAB. At our Annual Appreciation Luncheon we honored Dr. Mark Saylor and Lynn Hultquist as our first KAB Volunteers of the Year.  National KAB awards included:  Affiliate 1st place, Washburn Rural High School 1st place, and Jim Cates Show 1st place.

2008 – New this year was the T.A.G. Team (Topekans Against Graffiti) and we also participated in Oprah’s Big Give community improvement campaign. Also, at our Annual Appreciation Luncheon we honored KAB Volunteer of the Year, Marge Heeney as well as local business and civic national award nominations. National awards included: Jayhawk Council Boy Scouts 2nd place; and three Distinguished Service Citations for BRB Contractors, Inc., KTKA 49 ABC, and Topeka Housing and Neighborhood Development.

2009 – Bylaws were updated and revised this year. We also moved to an agenda driven meeting with guest speakers. New programs include: new mowing programs Operation B.I.L.L.Y. G.O.A.T. and Cutting for a Cause; Tulip Time Festival, Trees for Freedom, Gage Park Pride Day and Cigarette Litter Prevention Program. At our Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon we honored Kevin Thomas. National KAB winners included: Affiliate 1st place; Frito Lay, Inc. 2nd place; Washburn University 2nd place; and Westar Energy 2nd place.

2010 – A newsletter was created this year. New programs included: No Children Left Inside, an educational program; Lend a Bin, a portable recycle bin lending program; painting of a mural along our Shunga Trail; and the Return of Operation Noah’s Ark, an aluminum can collection to benefit Topeka Zoo. At our Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon we honored Shirley Kral as our KAB Volunteer of the Year, Marge Heeney as our nominee for Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson Award and Mayor Bill Bunten as our nominee for the Iron Eyes Cody Award. National winners included: Affiliate 1st place; Waste Management 1st place; and Sherwin Williams 1st place.

2011 – A new theme was designated this year from an article in the Topeka Capital Journal “Please STOP Trashing Our Town.”  We were partners with regional Methodist churches in Hands On Topeka.  We spent much time and effort first beautifying Mt. Auburn Cemetery and then updating the burial records.  Schools were challenged this year in Project ReDirectory and we participated in the first annual Recycle Bowl.  With a grant from Pennsylvania Horticulture Society, we created Selbach Sensory Garden in Gage Park Civitan area.  In September we honored Granville Davidson as Volunteer of the Year.  National KAB winners included:  CLPP 1st place; Topeka Capital Journal 1st place in the Business Litter Prevention category; and Highland Park High School second place in the School Beautification category. 

2012 – New this year was a community-wide litter clean-up “Get Down and Get Dirty” with 1,300 volunteers. Also a mobile collection of hazardous waste called “Haz Mat Hits the Road.” We helped cleanup the Children’s Discovery Center in preparation for their grand opening. Our new cigarette litter campaign was “Butt Buckets On the Go” offering cigarette ash receptacles on loan for civic events. We received a grant from Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores to help out our neighbors in Harveyville after their devastating tornado. Maggie and Eldon Pinick were honored as volunteers of the year, and we changed the name of the award honoring them. National award winners were: CLPP Distinguished Service Citation, Custom Tree Care 1st place in Business Beautification; Eisenhower Middle School 2nd place in Schools for Litter Prevention; 2nd place to Waste Management of Kansas in Business Litter Prevention; 2nd place to Payless ShoeSource in Business for Waste Reduction and a Distinguished Service Citation to Shawnee County Parks and Recreation for Litter Prevention.

2013 – New this year was “KAB Storm Troopers. This program encourages volunteers to keep their neighborhood storm drains free of litter and debris. Also new this year was a Lowe’s grant allowing us to install landscaping at Topeka Performing Arts Center. KAB volunteers also collected recycling at the NHRA races at Heartland Park. It was a banner year for our local KAB affiliate earning thirteen national awards. Paula Hladky and Willard Epling were honored as the Maggie and Eldon Pinick award recipients.

2014 – New this year was CSI Shawnee County. This program sends volunteers into neighborhoods to clean out storm drains hoping to prevent flooding and litter from entering our waterways. Also, we planted our first community garden “Garden of Hope.” Proceeds from the garden go to the Topeka Rescue Mission and the homeless.

2015 – This year, Nels Anderson designed a beautiful local logo for our affiliate. Bill Riphahn was honored as the Maggie and Eldon Pinick award recipient. Our partners and supporters brought home ten national awards. We introduced a new program for Safe Sharp Disposal on America Recycles Day thanks to Shawnee County Solid Waste and a Waste Management grant.

2016 – Jim Robinson was honored as the Maggie and Eldon Pinick award recipient at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. The Great American Cleanup brought our usual events: Get Down and Get Dirty, Advantage Metals bonus program, Earth Day Celebration and Topeka Cemetery beautification. We also had a new event, Tricks, Treats and Tulips in October.

2017 – Lacey McKee was honored as the Maggie and Eldon Pinick award recipient at our 40th Anniversary Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. We had a record participation at Get Down and Get Dirty with 1,750 volunteers. Through national KAB, we were granted a Pepsi recycling grant focusing on special events. We were also a grant recipient for trails improvement where we planted trees along the new trail in Gage Park. We had our first KAB tire recycling thanks to a grant from KDHE and Shawnee County Health Department. We had our second annual Tricks, Treats and Tulips planting 8,500 tulips at Lake Shawnee. Finally, the Waste Management Materials Recycling Facility had a tour for us in celebration of America Recycles Day.

2018 – Maggie Kelley was honored as the Maggie and Eldon Pinick award recipient at our annual Volunteer Appreciation luncheon.  Educational events included:  Kansas Lawn and Garden Show, the History and Environmental Fair, and the Topeka Water Festival.  Regular events like Get Down and Get Dirty, Festival of Tulips, Topeka Cemetery, Spirit of Kansas cleanup, and Tricks, Treats and Tulips were held.  We added an Arbor Day Tree Trimming event and World Naked Gardening Day.  We also received a grant from Duracell and introduced a Battery Exchange program.  Field trips included:  Moburt’s, the Curtis House and the Evel Knieval Museum.

2019 – Vivien Smith was honored as the Maggie and Eldon Pinick award recipient at the Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon.  This was the year of the “rainout” at KAB.  Educational events included:  Kansas Lawn and Garden Show, the History and Environmental Fair, Party for the Planet (canceled due to tiger issue) and the Topeka Water Festival was a rainout.  We had a record turnout for Get Down and Get Dirty with 2,200 participants.  We brought back the X-Treme Team and the Butt Brigade.  New this year were the Waterfront Warriors.  Field trips included:  Federal Home Loan Bank, Oakland Waste Water Treatment, Futamura and the energy plant at Rolling Meadows landfill.  We were also honored to host Mrs. U.S.A. Universal Kimberly Meinhardt for the kick off of the X-Treme Team in May.

2020 – The year began with the KAB convention in Memphis and the Lawn and Garden Show.  After that COVID-19 hit and things were a lot different than normal.  While we were able to hold some of the outdoor activities like cleanups, we were completely limited on indoor activities.  We did form a new group “Friends of Reinisch” and we put in many, many hours pulling weeds in the rose garden in Gage Park.  Our Free Days were held in celebration of Earth Day, and we met with Russ Burlew viewing and learning about purple martins in June.  We hope to be back to normal in 2021.

 2021- COVID-19 continued to hit KAB left and right with cancellations and complications.  The current news stories lead us to believe we will continue to battle “The ‘Rhona” in 2022.  Executive Director Philicia McKee, KAB’s leader since 2005, decided she would retire from KAB.  She was an incredible leader of KAB and the Board knew her shoes would be difficult to fill.  A two-month search for a new Executive Director culminated with the hiring of Cheryl Wright Kunard.  Wright Kunard began work on November 1 and worked closely with Philicia in November and December.