One of Europe's largest carmakers helped America take out the trash after its 238th birthday.
Volkswagen Group of America Inc. — part of the German-based auto manufacturer that makes Volkswagen, Audi, Lamborghini and Bentley cars — volunteered 250 hours of service to help clean up the National Mall in the wake of Independence Day celebrations.
"There's 60 or 70 employees, and they do service," Michael Horn, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, said during a water break near the Washington Monument. "They clean up the leftovers from the Fourth of July. They paint the fences."
Parked behind Horn was a brand new 2014 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid wrapped with the Trust for the National Mall's logo and a close-up of the Lincoln Memorial. As a corporate sponsor of the nonprofit group's cleanup and volunteer activities, Volkswagen donated the vehicle to support the Trust's efforts to keep America's front yard clean.
Horn and his employees boarded a bus from their Herndon, Va., headquarters early Monday morning for the 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. day of service. In addition to cleaning up debris and applying fresh coats of paint, they pulled weeds from around the nearby lake at Constitution Gardens.
They worked in coordination with the National Park Service's National Mall and Memorial Parks maintenance crews, according to Caroline Cunningham, president of the official nonprofit partner of the NPS. The Trust was founded in 2007, and now represents the largest public-private partnership in NPS history.
"If they didn't have the volunteer support and Volkswagen didn't come today, they would be out here all by themselves trying to clean up after an event of 750,000 people," Cunningham said, shortly after accepting a giant cardboard key to the brand new hybrid. "The Volkswagen volunteers really did an outstanding job cleaning up all the trash and debris that you can imagine after such a large event."
In May 2013, Volkswagen announced a $10 million gift to the Trust to help its efforts to preserve America's most visited national park. The donation, which is being granted over a five-year period, will support a long-term plan to preserve the mall that includes redesign and restoration of Constitution Gardens and the Washington Monument Grounds at Sylvan Theater.
"It's just after the Fourth of July, and so all the parties are over," Horn said, hanging out near the vehicle. "So, 750,000 people have been here, so we help clean up and make this place a little bit nicer, and also painting fences like this."