Sara Melnicoff basks in the satisfaction of recycling, and cleaning up natural areas. [Courtesy photo]

Trash had been building up for years along the Mill Creek Parkway through Moab when Sara Melnicoff decided to do something about it. She and her late partner David Morgan would collect the litter in large plastic bags they’d reuse and reuse until the bags disintegrated.

After months of collecting recyclables and removing garbage, Melnicoff enlisted the help of friends, which led to the founding of Moab Solutions – a nonprofit whose mission is to “reduce and eliminate the waste of materials and human potential while nurturing the well-being of the natural world.”

One day while on her clean-up mission, Melnicoff tripped over a homeless campsite on the parkway.

“When we stumbled on the homeless, we decided we needed to help them – it grew into half of our mission,” Melnicoff said. “There was a lot of trash in the homeless camps.

“I wanted to find out why people were here, and how we could help them.”

She secured grant funding to pay homeless individuals to clean up the parkway and recycle whatever possible. She and Morgan started a nonmotorized lawn care company to employ homeless persons.

“A lot of people didn’t know a lot about the homeless so I started bringing them to city council meetings,” Melnicoff said. “We started finding out what their issues were.

“I was like a case manager for street people. We eventually got everyone off the parkway.”

Almost every morning Melnicoff, 60, goes to Mill Creek Canyon to clean up trash, remove invasive plant species and do restoration of the area. Ecological restoration is one of Moab Solutions ongoing projects.

Melnicoff installed recycling bins around town years ago – containers she encourages people and businesses to take over maintaining. When that doesn’t happen, she and Moab Solutions attend to the task.

Melnicoff eventually acquired a board of directors and established Moab Solutions as a nonprofit organization. For years, Melnicoff worked for free.

Moab Solutions board member Mary O’Brien remembers when the organization began fundraising and began paying Melnicoff a small salary for the first time.

“She said ‘now I’ll be able to give money away to good organizations,’” O’Brien recalled. “She inspires anyone she asks to volunteer because she’s so close to volunteering herself. Now that she’s paid, she volunteers for other things.”

For example, Melnicoff donates time to Salvation Army. She coordinates the holiday bell-ringer fundraisers and directs those in need to various human services. Over the years she’s sent 15 people with alcohol addictions to a free Salvation Army rehabilitation center in Denver. Some of those addicts repeated rehab up to four times, she said.

“Even if they failed, failed, failed, we never gave up on them,” she said.

To learn how Melnicoff is volunteering her time to get dogs off chains and walked, visit: www.facebook.com/pages/A-Dogs-Life-Moab/408706485963738

This Week: Sara Melnicoff