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Eastpointe, Roseville

June 12, 2013

Chamber, community volunteers clean up Gratiot Ave.

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

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Chamber, community volunteers clean up Gratiot Ave.
Eastside Teen Outreach volunteers Kent and Kathy Darcie and Tony Trocino (front) pick up litter at the Eastpointe-Roseville Chamber of Commerce Gratiot Clean Up June 1.

EASTPOINTE/ROSEVILLE — The Eastpointe-Roseville Chamber of Commerce and Christ Community Church’s annual Gratiot Clean Up yielded a Dumpster filled with garbage discarded along Gratiot Ave. 

Just before 10 a.m. June 1, a line formed in the 23000 block of Gratiot; it ran along the storefront sidewalk and around the side of the Odd Fellows Hall.

More than 50 volunteers signed up to assist with the cleanup, and the turnout was an eclectic mix of residents and community supporters — children, retirees, church groups, business owners and prisoners in a Macomb County Sheriff’s Department trusties detail — who came together with ease for the shared cause of cleaning up the main thoroughfare in the two east side cities.

Volunteers were split in groups of 10-12, explained the task at hand and given plastic gloves, garbage bags and bottles of water. Then, as quickly as they came, they dispersed — each group heading to its assigned mile-long sections of Gratiot, between Eight Mile and 14 Mile.

Praying for sunshine on a day that forecasted rain, Eastside Teen Outreach and Christ Community Church volunteers took the 12 Mile to 13 Mile stretch.

“It turned out to be a beautiful day,” said Bill Saputo.

“A lot of prayer went into that,” added Tammy Saputo. “We’ve been praying a lot today. When we see things, we pray for whatever is going on — for the children when we see Band-Aids, for those with addictions when we are picking up cigarette butts, for whatever is going on.”

It’s the Christ Community Church husband and wife duo’s third year participating in the cleanup. Midway through their section of Gratiot, they estimated that although they might have filled more bags last year, the amount of garbage on the street was about the same as in previous years.

“This year, it’s been more small things than big things, but it’s about the same amount of garbage,” Bill Saputo said. “Last year, we picked up some boxes and bigger things; this year, it’s a lot of wrappers and cigarette butts.”

“Mostly cigarette butts, so we are able to kind of tell a story of what kind of lifestyles are in the city and just praying against those — addictions and sickness,” added Tammy Saputo. “I’ve seen Band-Aids, a baby diaper. I just picked up a family picture of three generations, someone must have lost it, and I was able to pray for that family.”

There was one other difference they noticed from this year to last — the amount of garbage surrounding bus stops.

“The bus stops are a lot cleaner,” Tammy Saputo said. “They’ve really done a great job putting in these bus stops with garbage cans. Last year, the bus stops were loaded with food wrappers and cigarette butts and all sorts of trash, but they are a lot cleaner this year.”

On the opposite side of the street, donning their signature bright yellow shirts, ETO volunteers had similar findings along their section of Gratiot.

“This is our first bag, but it is pretty heavy — lots of cigarette butts,” said Kathy Darcie. “There’s a little bit from the parade, but not a lot, and some wrappers and food packaging.”

Kathy Darcie, along with her husband, Kent, regularly volunteer at ETO events around the community. It’s something they enjoy doing, especially when they know their hard work is going to good use, and during the cleanup they got that feeling more than once.

“We’ve had kids riding by on bikes saying, ‘Thank you,’ and somebody honked and gave us a thumbs-up, so it’s really been cool,” Kathy Darcie said.

“And one of the storeowners came out and asked what we were doing, and we explained it to him and he said, ‘Wow, that’s great — thank you,’ so it’s been really nice,” Kent Darcie added.

One look at their weighty bag and it was easy to see why so many made a point to thank them for their effort — after just a few blocks, it was already filled.

“We started at (Common Road) and just worked our way down, and we’ve gotten all of that so far and we are only about a quarter mile down — that’s a lot of cigarette butts — and it’s just this side; there are other groups on the other side and in the median,” Kent Darcie said.

Greg Schumacher, a deputy at the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, and a group of 12 inmates in the trusties program took on the entire stretch of median from Eight Mile to 14 Mile.

“We picked up maybe eight bags of trash — they worked hard and they did a good job,” Schumacher said. “This is the third weekend in a row — well, every other weekend — taking them out. It is considered volunteer community service. Two weekends ago, we were in Harrison Township working on the spillway and the waterways.”

“It’s good community policing — it lets the community know we are here to incarcerate but also to rehabilitate and reward, and it’s a great way to help out the community. And, it’s good for them, too. They would do this every day of the week if they could. They love it.”

“My first thought when they got out of the van, because so many of them are just young people, was that if they would have had this, if they would have had programs like ETO, maybe some of them wouldn’t be in the van,” Kent Darcie said.

Back at the chamber office after a long morning of work, volunteers were treated to a lunch of pizza, pasta, and chips and salsa. Chamber Director Danielle Bare credited Christ Community Church with churning out the impressive number of volunteers, but said that without the support of chamber members, the event wouldn’t have been as successful as it was.

“BDT Pipes and Tobacco came out and volunteered, and some other chamber members actually donated the bottled water and food and other supplies for this,” Bare said. “Cloverleaf donated pizza. Olive Garden did pasta. Qdoba did the chips and the salsa and the queso dip. Sam’s Club donated all of the garbage bags and gloves for everyone. Rizzo Environmental donated a Dumpster.

“I got a really good response from everybody at the Chamber, but we couldn’t have done it without the volunteers.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.