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Long honored for volunteerism

By Staff | Aug 26, 2009

Kermit Long’s 18-year career as a bag man was finally recognized Aug. 1 when the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection awarded the octogenarian the 2009 Adopt-A-Highway Volunteer of the Year award.

Working under the umbrella of the Middlebourne Roadrunner’s Club, Long has been a fixture of the annual Jug Handle 5K Run/Walk route winding out Seller’s Road on the periphery of Middlebourne. Over the course of 20 years, Long and volunteers have collected 382 bags of litter over a span of 117 hours totaling 13,370 pounds along the adopted roadway.

“Over the years, although the adopted portion of the highway has been serviced by different persons, Kermit as been the constant,” Anna Shahan, state program coordinator for the Adopt-A-Highway/Operation Wildflower of the West Virginia DEP, said. “It takes perseverance and not everyone has that.”

This, as well as Long’s service and enthusiastic approach to the program and his community, were paramount on Shahan’s mind when choosing the volunteer of the year.

“There are 25,386 volunteers statewide representing 1,624 organizations who pick up litter on 4,218 miles of roadside. Kermit competed with six other dedicated volunteers for the honor of the 2009 West Virginia Adopt-A-Highway Volunteer of the Year,” she said. “Mr. Long has been a dedicated volunteer who has faithfully kept his adopted road litter free for more than 20 years. His dedications to his community and to the state of West Virginia are to be commended.”

Maybe the award came at the right time. Having turned 81 in June, and with volunteers sometimes sparse, he entertained the idea of not only dropping the Jug Handle 5K, the last of four former annual events, but the area he has policed two to three times a year since April 1989. In addition to the anemic help, Long’s knees are starting to slow him down, making the effort more difficult with each season.

But, he has persevered, finding help where he can and taking to the roads with a little less spring in each step, but the initial love of his community and nature to spur him on.

“I enjoy working within the community for the benefit of it,” Long said. “This is my home and I’ve always tried to give back to it as much as I can.”

The Tyler County native took a fast track to do just that when he returned from 30 years of teaching in Europe. In addition to the Adopt-A-Highway, Long has initiated four benefit races, though only one remains, as well as the volunteer program with each of the four county schools and the Tyler County Spelling Bee he moderates each August.

Upon his return, he opted to reenter to the classroom on an as-needed-basis, substituting until three years ago when he finally put the chalk and eraser down.

“I’ve enjoyed my life and continue to do so. It’s been full and I’ve accomplished more than I ever set out to do,” he said. “This is just a part of it and it’s very gratifying to have someone recognize the efforts of yourself and others for a normally thankless job. I’m very honored to received this award and share it with all the people who have helped me over the years.”

The Adopt-A-Highway Program began in the fall of 1988. For more information on how to become involved as a volunteer, contact Shahan at (800) 322-5530 or logging onto the state Web site at .