Keeping city clean is year-round job for Lilly

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2003

When the city of Ironton witnessed repeated plant closings that devastated the local economy, Randy Lilly realized the city needed something positive to pull residents together.

"At first, this was an effort to spruce up entrances to give prospective employers a positive first initial impression of Ironton," he said. "Then, this was a chance for the city to pick itself up by the bootstraps and have a little pride and go in the right direction."

For the past four years, hundreds of volunteers have joined him in his efforts.

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Lilly, a machinist for CSX Railroad in Russell, Ky., has been organizing the Ironton Volunteer Clean Up Day. For as long as he is able to do it, he will continue.

"It's an event in the spring to give the city an early facelift," he said.

This past May's cleanup attracted 150 people, and many of them were children. More than 500 flowers were planted in the city as well as 10 Cleveland pear trees. They also picked up 200-300 bags of trash. Lilly and the other volunteers also planted 14 freestanding barrels throughout the city, and last Friday he was out watering them. He also plants other types of flowers such as mums, tulips and geraniums at different times throughout the year, catching low-priced plants whenever he seems to find them at a local Wal-Mart.

Others such as Ironton superintendent Dean Nance and Ironton city Councilman Brent Pyles and his wife Lou have helped him in his efforts, he said. The cleanup is also donor-driven, with $2,700 raised this year.

Lilly admitted that he was no gardening expert when he began the event.

"I had to pick my mom's brain a bit," he laughed.

He also works with the help of a committee as well as civic organizations such as the Ironton Business Association, which donated the first seed plant for the first cleanup.

Lilly moved to Ironton 40 years ago with his parents, Thelma and the late Raymond Lilly from West Virginia.

"They set my entire value system," he said.

"I stay here for my friends, family and the good small-town atmosphere. I'm trying to revitalize the good this community has. This is a good small town to raise a family. We need to be pulling in the same direction instead of worrying about our own personal goals."

Lilly was chosen as this year's Ironmaster, and felt badly because he found out he was chosen when he had already scheduled a vacation during the time, making him unable to attend the ceremony.

"I was proud to be a nominee," he said. "There were many deserving people besides myself. I want to thank the IBA for the recognition. I was humbled by it."