Families Help Clean Up Southwest Virginia Families Help Clean Up Southwest Virginia

A local winery owner offers cash prizes for trash pickup.

ALLISONIA – Some childhood memories happen at the beach. Others happen in big cities. For Adam Fariss, owner of Iron Heart Winery in Southwest Virginia, fond memories occurred on the side of the road.

“We actually grew up picking up litter as a family,” Fariss said.

The family participated in community cleanup days, where they’d equip themselves with a trash bag, a mission and a smile. Outside of community events, the Fariss’s also collected garbage off of the roadsides around their farm.

“I’ve always been really, like, aware of the litter on the sides of the road,” Fariss said.

However, up until recently, the problem in Southwest Virginia didn’t seem unmanageable. Around the same time the COVID-19 pandemic started, so did the litter piling up on the side of the road.

Fariss assumed the problem arose for two main reasons. First, many restaurants switched to take-out only dining options. When people ate on the go, they chucked their trash out of their vehicle’s window, rather than dirtying their ride.

Fariss suggested that a compounding issue occurred due to inmates being unable to pick up litter on the side of the road, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

So not only was there more litter, but there was also no organized workforce to rid the community of it.

Frustrated by the influx of trash in his community, Fariss decided to do something about it. He picked up litter on the side of the road. He posted a photo to Facebook, along with a challenge.

If folks collected 30 gal. bags of litter in Southwest Virginia – and sent a photo to Iron Heart Winery’s Facebook page to prove it – he’d enter them into a raffle for $250.

A Growing Idea

The local business owner first posted about the incentive-driven good deed on social media a few weeks ago.

Much to his surprise, folks willing to pick up trash weren’t the only people that contacted Fariss. Other local business owners asked if they could donate toward the raffle fund. He readily agreed.

The ante quickly jumped from the original lump-sum prize of $250 by Iron Heart Winery to over $3,500, spread out over 12 prizes. Currently, there are two $1,000 prizes, one $500 prize, one $200 prize, one $150 prize and seven $100 prizes.

The excitement surrounding the trash pickup also picked up as the prize pool propelled. So far, about 30 teams collected an approximate grand total of 300 bags of trash.

One 30 gal. trash bag counts as one raffle entry. A full truckload of larger items – like discarded screen doors and tires – counts as 10 raffle entries.

The outpouring of the region struck Fariss.

“It’s been a pleasant surprise for sure. I was hoping that people in the immediate, local community would help to pick up some trash. And maybe I would be the only business that would put any money in the raffle,” Fariss said. “I wasn’t expecting others to contribute at all, but I definitely wasn’t expecting for it to kind of catch fire like it has. But it’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Cleaning Up in Southwest Virginia

One soda pop can on the side of the road is an eyesore, but several become a problem.

“I guess what it really comes down to, to me, is just a sense of pride and wanting [the community] to look as nice as possible. So when people come to our part of the world, it’s nice to think that they see the beauty that exists here,” Fariss said. “When there’s all kinds of litter in the roadway, it really undermines that.”

Farris suggested manageable solutions to cut down on littering.

“Although it’s easier to throw it out the window – perhaps for you – it takes a lot more effort for somebody else, which it’s not their job to pick up your trash,” Fariss said. “You just ride home, put it in the trashcan and it goes to the dump. Or whenever you stop and pump gas, you put it in the trash in there. And then if it’s that difficult, you can also put a trash bag in your car in the bag there. There are a lot of options.”

Fariss noted that it’s “a shame” that people litter, noting the negative impacts trash on the side of the road has on the community as a whole.

“I mean, it’s going to impact whether or not people decide to move into your community. It’s going to impact whether or not businesses want to come in your community. Businesses are worried about it because customers don’t want to come into communities that look like that,” Fariss said. “I think we should take better care of our surroundings.”

Trash for Cash in Southwest Virginia

The Trash for Cash raffle will continue through the end of April, culminating on May 1.

Anyone picking up trash in the Southwest Virginia region is eligible to enter.

Through the end of next month, participants may submit photos of their full trash bags or truck beds to Iron Heart Winery’s Facebook page, through Facebook Messenger.

“The more trash we get, the better,” Fariss said.

Amie Knowles reports for Dogwood. You can reach her at amie@couriernewsroom.com