Raymond James associate Samantha Johns and her daughter Aurelia fill buckets with waste at Gandy Beach.
On a breezy, cloudless day in St. Petersburg, Florida, Kurt Allebach and Barry Feller are stationed in the north parking lot of Gandy Beach with supplies in tow. They’ve laid out several large buckets, a stack of 35-gallon paper waste bags, some heavy duty gloves, and a few dozen trash pickers for the taking.
It’s beach cleanup time for the “Ol’ Salty Souls,” a group of Raymond James associates who come together one Saturday each month to restore a Tampa Bay waterfront area. They’ve been making their way down Gandy Beach, a highly polluted Pinellas County shoreline, for the past three meetups.
One by one, cars pull into the parking lot, friendly smiles and hellos are exchanged, and associates – many accompanied by partners, children and friends – collect their gloves and pickers. It’s time to get to work.
“Picking” for a purpose
The Ol’ Salty Souls shoreline cleanup team was formed in October 2019 when Allebach, Business Architect, Technology, decided to organize a “pick” (a cleanup) for a few of his colleagues at Diamondback Nature Preserve in Tampa. He saw it as a teambuilding activity – a nice way for teammates to come together to give back toward “a common purpose.” The idea quickly gained traction within the firm’s Sustainability Committee, and the cleanup team is now made up largely of committee members, colleagues and their families. Over the past year and a half, the volunteers have spent more than 300 hours removing nearly 3,000 pounds of trash from six Tampa Bay shorelines – and counting.
Allebach (right) holds open a paper waste bag.
“We tend to focus on volume – getting as much of the material up as we can,” Allebach says. “And we get about half of it back into the recycling stream. We segment the trash based off of regular trash and recyclables, and that helps a lot.”
Today, volunteers spread out from the roadside to the water, some climbing over rocks, others crawling beneath mangrove trees. They retrieve bottles, cans, food wrappers, discarded masks, fishing supplies and other debris. At the end of the cleanup, associates from the office services team bring trash and recyclables back to the Raymond James home office for proper disposal.
“It’s a great way for people from across the firm to come together, bring their family members, and give something back to our community,” says Feller, a senior operations consultant.
And as for the name of the team – if you’re wondering, “Why ‘Ol Salty Souls?” – Allebach has a simple answer.
“I saw it on a bumper sticker and thought it was fun.”
About the Sustainability Committee
The Raymond James Sustainability Committee is an employee engagement program made up of volunteers who support local action, organize the firm’s annual Sustainability Fair and share tips and resources to help associates live more sustainable lives. Established in 2010 by a passionate group of associates sharing ideas and promoting the importance of a more sustainable world, the committee has grown into an important advocate for the environment within Raymond James.
“A focus on environmental responsibility enables the firm to maintain its commitment to the environment while improving transparency and communication to our colleagues and the communities we serve,” says Jodi Perry, president of the Independent Contractor Division of Raymond James Financial Services and executive sponsor of the firm’s environmental sustainability efforts. “From signature firm wide events like the Sustainability Fair to focused projects like the Tampa Bay beach cleanups, the committee’s efforts are a pivotal part of our overall approach to environmental responsibility.”
The “why” behind the ‘Ol Salty Souls
For both Feller and Allebach, spending a Saturday morning filling buckets with pounds of trash is a no-brainer. For them, it’s an important step toward improving a community they love.
Feller picks up a full waste bag.
“Being a native of St. Pete, I always loved being on the water,” Feller says. “And Kurt had shown me a study* that was done – it talked about the alarming rise of microplastics here in the Bay. So, for me, that was motivation to get involved and start participating in the beach cleanup to try to offset that so future families can enjoy the bay.”
As for Allebach, environmental sustainability has been a long-time interest. “My original field of study was environmental sciences, and this is just me coming full circle, back to that early interest of mine,” he says. “Certainly with us living here at sea level, it has a huge impact on our communities here. And it’s a chance for me to get out and do something good with my time. It gives me that good karma feeling.”
*Source: “Florida’s Tampa Bay Has 4 Billion Microplastic Particles, Study Finds”. Weather.com.
Sustainability at Raymond James
Sustainability is one pillar of the firm’s commitment to corporate responsibility, one way to describe the deliberate actions we take to live our mission and put our values into practice so we may fulfill our vision to be a financial services firm as unique as the people we serve. Raymond James believes it is our duty to be good stewards of our resources and help clients build wealth responsibly for the future. Our approach includes sustainable investing, sustainable finance, and environmental responsibility. Learn more.