Since 1999, Don Nolan has spent every second Saturday of the month meeting cleanup crews in the parking lot of the Treasure Island Waffle House, then heading across the street to pick up trash on the beach.
It’s not a glamorous job, and it’s a self-appointed one he’s dedicated 24 years of Saturdays to without much complaint. In December, Nolan will give up his position as the head of cleanup due to a “lack of volunteers” and a need to slow down.
“It wasn’t just me; at one time, we had 25 volunteers helping out,” Nolan said. “We did this with the support of the city and the support of the community.
His presence on the beaches will be missed.
Nolan said he began spearheading the Treasure Island beach cleanups after the former group leader, Don Graham, asked him to take over in 1999. For most of the two decades, Graham supported his cleaning habit by selling the aluminum cans he bought, sometimes earning $100 a month.
When the city put out can recycling bins, it cut his profits.
“Those trash pickers aren’t cheap,” said Betty Nolan, Don’s wife and former volunteer.
Though endings can be bittersweet, the Nolans know change is unavoidable. They hope further Keep Pinellas Beautiful efforts will pick up, and that the beach will continue to get much-needed attention.
What will Nolan do with his free Saturdays following his retirement from beach cleanups?
“Oh, I guess now I’ll be cleaning the garage instead,” Nolan said with a laugh.
Come to Don Nolan Day: Saturday, Nov. 12, 9 a.m. 8000 W. Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island. Call 215-694-6692 for details.