By Connie Leinbach
Most mornings on her two-mile trek around Ocracoke Village, Marci Mason is on “beer and butt” patrol.
That is, she’s picking up trash along the way — mostly beer containers and cigarette butts, the latter of which she particularly abhors.
“Somebody could throw a (still warm) cigarette butt out the window and start a fire,” she said in an interview after having received the N.C. Governor’s Volunteer Service Award in May. “I understand a tissue falling out of someone’s vehicle, but beer cans and cigarette butts are deliberate,” she said.
A fire almost happened to her after one of her walks.
She had picked up numerous cigarette butts thanks to the picker-upper device her husband Charlie had purchased for her and as she went to throw away her full bag, she noticed a burning smell.
She thought it was someone sanding wood, but then saw that her bag full of trash was smoking.
“I had picked up a live butt,” she said.
Once, while she was riding in her golf cart, she saw a man in a golf cart toss his live cigarette butt onto the parking lot of a local shop.
“I pointed at him and said, ‘Do you know what you did?’” she said as the man looked sheepish. ’You could start a fire with that.’ I don’t think he picked it back up.”
She began her endeavors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was upset by all of the face masks and gloves on the ground,” she said about the impetus to start collecting trash. “I’m going to walk anyway, so why not?”
Mason was nominated for the honor by Valerie Willis.
“(Marci) has a cheerful hello no matter the weather, the hectic pace of summer or brutal cold in winter,” Willis said in her nomination. “She has an understanding of the environment, the impacts of human behaviors on it, and the importance of its protection. Every piece of trash that is taken away to be recycled or deposited in a landfill means there is one less dangerous item for birds, turtles or dolphins to swallow.”
She noted that Mason also volunteers in the community whenever she can at various community events. In the past year, Mason said, Marci’s additional services to the people of Ocracoke include singing in the choir at the Ocracoke United Methodist Church, volunteering to work at the Ocracoke Thrift Store and donating baked goods to Ocracoke Bingo, both of which raise money for the Ocracoke Youth Center. She is an avid member of the Tiderunners of Ocracoke, a women’s team in the Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament
The Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards honor citizens who have shown concern and compassion for their neighbors by making a significant contribution to their community through volunteer service.