Jul. 18—The desire to help others has been a big motivator for Kandace Cave while making career choices.
"Service is an honorable thing," she said. "It's something that everybody should strive to do."
Cave, 38, is the program coordinator for Keep Aiken County Beautiful, which celebrated the second anniversary of its launch in June of this year.
With Cave at the helm, the Keep America Beautiful affiliate has worked with more than 1,500 volunteers who have donated more than 7,100 hours of their time since 2019.
Keep Aiken County Beautiful also has conducted more than 70 events and been responsible for the removal of more than 47,600 pounds of litter.
"It was a new program for the county, and I had experience building new programs, so I thought it would be a win-win situation," said Cave of the reason why she applied for the position. "One of the things I truly like about this job is that it is instantly gratifying. We can go to a road, a street or an illegal dump site and immediately make it better."
One day, Cave would like to be able to focus more on beautification than on picking up roadside trash.
"I love to dig in the dirt and grow things, but it's a part of the job that I don't get to do a lot," she said. "We can't really plant trees and flowers on top of litter, so dealing with litter is step one."
In an effort to stop people from tossing or dumping debris from their vehicles, Keep America Beautiful has held litter prevention presentations at schools and community events.
"COVID-19 slowed us down a bit," Cave said. "Before that happened, we had reached over 1,400 students."
In early 2020, Cave was a speaker at the Keep America Beautiful National Conference in Memphis, Tennessee, where she discussed how Keep Aiken County Beautiful used story maps to illustrate data collected about the amount of litter locally.
Also last year, Cave received a leadership award for her efforts in the Palmetto State's central region from the South Carolina Litter Control Association.
"I feel like I'm making a difference," she said.
Born and raised in Aiken County, Cave is a graduate of Aiken High School. She earned a bachelor's degree in history from USC Aiken.
Her resume also includes an eight-year stint in the U.S. Army Reserves.
"I joined when I was only 17, so I had to get permission from my mom," she said. "I think all young people should consider serving in the military, even just to experience basic training. I'm a different person because of it. I was looking for guidance at that time, and it was a great place to kind of discover who Kandace was."
Immediately prior to accepting the position with Keep Aiken County Beautiful, Cave was the director of community programming for Helping Hands.
She became a Helping Hands employee while she was at USC Aiken.
"I went to Helping Hands as a volunteer (for the school's Martin Luther King Day of Service), and I liked it," Cave said.
Helping Hands provides a temporary home for youngsters who are victims of abuse, abandonment or neglect.
The organization also offers mental health counseling services and community education programs that are designed to reduce risk-taking behaviors and promote healthy decisions.
Cave also is a member of the Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board and has served on public school-related committees.
"There are a lots of ways you can serve the community," she said.