The Leaf Collection Competition brings Elkhart County residents together for some friendly rivalry. This alternative to burning leaves has earned teams thousands of dollars for their organizations over the years.
Central Christian Church has led the pack for the past two competition cycles. In 2020 they visited the landfill 178 times and brought 94 tons of leaves, which earned them $18,282.42. In 2019 they collected 70 tons of leaves and surpassed the 2018 leaders, Prairie Camp, by almost half. Most impressive is Central Christian Church’s 52-ton jump from their 2018 total. Another organization, Yellow Creek MYF, also surpassed its personal best from 2018 to 2019 by 11 tons.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the leaf collection competition is how much it grows each year. Residents of Elkhart County have increasingly collected more competition leaves and non-competition leaves each year. Reducing the number of leaves burned not only earns team members money, but also improves the air quality and overall health of the community. Many participants expressed the importance of the added environmental benefits to their neighborhoods. One team, Kritzman’s, commented that the competition gave meaningful purpose to moving their leaves.
Participants noted how the competition was a great way to bond as a group and educate residents about the impacts of leaf burning. Fair Oaks Association commented that they were able to establish more ties with their neighbors and that neighbors appreciated not having to worry about leaves. Teams came together to both collect and drop off leaves periodically to the landfill. Teams also reached out to fellow community members through flyers, phone calls, social media and word of mouth. The effort put forth by participants is rewarded with their success in the program.
Teams use prize money in a variety of ways. Leaves for Light plans on using their prize money for solar street lamps at their neighborhood bus stops. Other teams use the money for their churches and other organizations. This competition shows how hard work can result in a large pay off.