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Virginia’s newest LOVE sign will soon make its way around Hampton Roads as part of a local recycling campaign.

A high school welding class at the College & Career Academy at Pruden built the structure, which will be unveiled at an Earth Day event Saturday in Suffolk.

The project comes through, an environmental education arm of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.

Wayne Jones with Suffolk public works is part of the regional organization’s recycling committee and said the sign is part of its “Start Smart, Recycle Right” campaign.

Tied to the Commonwealth's slogan, "Virginia for Lovers," more than 300 LOVE signs have popped up all over the state. Jones said the new one fits in with that program.

"We wanted to create a LOVE sign that we could use to get the conversation started about recycling.”

Jones said the goal is to broach the topic of recycling in a fun way, while also displaying more information about how to properly recycle in Hampton Roads.  They encourage lots of selfies with the sign. 

The group put out a request last fall for an artist to build the sign and chose the Pruden class, which received $2,500. 

Longtime welding instructor Tom Shirk said he saw the challenge as a good way for students to apply what they learn.

Over the past semester they’ve used scrap metal to weld the letters of the sign, including a heart in place of the letter O.

studentswelding sized
Photo courtesy of Tom Shirk

Students at the College & Career Academy at Pruden in Suffolk weld the LOVE sign. 

To fill the frame they gathered other recyclable materials. 

“It was a lot of fun,” Shirk said. “We had the students collect all the cans and bottles. We had no idea we needed as many as we did.”

He said he wants students to leave the project knowing they can make an impact on their local environment. 

“The sign is a symbol that recycling can make something beautiful and meaningful,” one student wrote him in an email. 

“I didn’t understand how we would build the sign at first, it seemed like we were working hard and long but no progress was being made. Eventually, I started seeing the vision for the sign and watched it turn into a piece of art.”

The sign will remain in Suffolk through May. It will then travel throughout the region as follows: Portsmouth in June, Newport News in July, August in Norfolk, Virginia Beach in September, Gloucester in October, James City County in November and York County in December.