By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Kelsey Prince’s hopes to make her city better, especially the parks she grew up playing in, turned out to be more than a pipe dream.
The 19-year-old Portales native said she was hanging with her friends at the city’s skate park, bouncing ideas off one another on ways they could improve the city while giving youth something to do.
“We were talking about how the old Rotary Park used to be,” Prince said. “These are my streets, these are my friends. We all grew up here.”
And thus her volunteer group Kinetic with its motto, “We the kids, for the kids,” was born.
Prince said she wanted to beautify the city’s parks through group cleanups since it’s mostly the city’s youth who use the parks.
“I just found out who to talked to and just started asking people to help,” Prince said. “Most answers are, ‘we don’t have anything better to do.’ I want this to be constructive for kids to do.”
Volunteers mostly pick up trash and paint the parks’ benches and tables. Prince said she makes the outings fun and brings along snacks and a football for volunteers to toss around.
The group receives trash bags, paint and other materials supplied by the city through the New Mexico Clean and Beautiful grant.
She began the cleanups in July and has held eight since at most of the city’s parks. She said the number of volunteers varies, from two to a dozen, but she expects word of mouth to grow the group, which is open to people of all ages but geared toward youth.
Jodie Hibbard, 21, is a regular at the cleanups and she said Kinetic is more than just coming out on Saturdays to do the grunt work.
“It’s telling people to clean up the town. If you see trash and it’s not yours, clean it up,” Hibbard said. “It’s also a way to give back. We’re not the best people, but we can do good things.”
Hibbard feels she and Prince are showing children that you can have fun and help the community.
“I just wanted it to be a better place, back to how I remember it when I was a kid,” said Hibbard of the city’s parks. “I remember it being a safe and clean place.”
Hibbard said the needle scare at Rotary Park in June — four children accidentally stuck themselves with needles they found in a bag by a tree at the park during an outing with their Portales daycare — concerned her because she is a mother and has spent time at that park.
“I don’t remember having to worry about that,” Hibbard said.
She encourages all to come out and clean as a community.
“Kinetic has become a part of our daily lives,” Hibbard said.
Prince said she wants something better for children to do and plans to host future play dates in the park as rewards and also to promote safe but fun activities.
“I didn’t expect it to go anywhere, I have big dreams and goals,” Prince said.
In the future, Prince would like to expand Kinetic across New Mexico.
• What: Kinetic cleanup
• When: 9 a.m., Saturday
• Where: Lindsey Park
• Information: 562-9111.