Metro Detroiters team up to pick up litter
By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer
As we cross another Earth Day off our calendars, some of us might let the spirit of environmental consciousness drift. There are others in our community, though, who think working to beautify our neighborhoods should last beyond a single day of awareness, and they’re dedicated to cleaning up the harmful and unsightly trash that so many others leave behind.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder officially declared April 1-May 31 Michigan Clean-Up Days. The campaign is part of the national effort Great American Cleanup, which encourages people to come together in their neighborhood, and through cleaning and restoration projects, enhance their environment. Keep Michigan Beautiful Inc. has established a website where volunteers can post and promote organized beautification efforts.
It seems as though small groups around the area are doing just that. In Eastpointe, more than 100 teens gather each week as part of Eastside Teen Outreach, made up of young people from Roseville, Eastpointe and St. Clair Shores. According to Doug Trocino, ETO director of operations, the faith-based group is designed to bring marginalized teens together to give back to their community.
“These are kids who are bullied, don’t do well in school, have dysfunctional families. Kids who don’t get a whole lot of attention otherwise, but they’re great kids,” said Trocino.
Among the many community service projects ETO participates in, street cleanup is one of the group’s biggest priorities. Several times a year, kids from ETO will partner up with other organizations or head out on their own to pick up trash and litter from streets in their neighborhoods. The kids enjoy the time with each other, and municipal leaders are always grateful for their efforts, according to Trocino.
“Our mission is to bring teens together to make a positive impact in this world. We find that it gives kids the chance to give back to the community, and it gives them a sense of pride in where they live and some of the things they can accomplish.”
On May 5, the teens will team up with local churches for a cleanup event in Eastpointe. Volunteers will meet behind the Eastpointe Chamber of Commerce, 24840 Gratiot Ave., at 8 a.m. and will disperse around town to pick up city streets. Anyone can participate, and according to Trocino, it’s a good time for everyone involved.
“It means a lot to them to drive by later and to take pride in the fact that it looks better than it did.”
To find out more about Eastside Teen Outreach, visit www.eastsideteenoutreach.org.
Lynn Hayes knows firsthand how important it is for the community to get involved in the beautification of their own neighborhoods. She coordinates volunteers for Michigan’s Adopt-A-Highway program in Macomb and St. Clair counties.
“People come back and say it’s a fun thing to do, and they like doing it and they feel like they’re contributing something,” said Hayes. “And anytime you can keep trash off the roads, that’s good, right?”
Hayes said the Adopt-A-Highway program relies on volunteers to help keep state roads clean of trash and debris. The task isn’t an easy one — those who adopt highways, up to two miles worth, agree to clean both the northbound and southbound sections of their road three times a year. The first cleanup of 2012 took place April 14, with the second scheduled for mid-July and the third at the end of September. The state provides reflective safety vests and garbage bags, and the volunteers do the rest. When the dirty work is done, participants leave their filled bags at the side of the road, and county workers pick up the bags to dispose of them.
Luckily, Hayes said, there’s no shortage of people ready and willing to help. In fact,
in her jurisdiction, there are no available highways left to adopt. There’s a waiting list for residents who want to claim a section of road in honor of certain organizations, like schools, clubs, businesses or nonprofit groups, or in memory of a lost loved one. In exchange for their efforts, signs are posted alongside roads to acknowledge who has adopted that section of highway.
“Obviously it makes the roads look better, and it’s a cost savings to the state,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of groups. It’s very diversified.”
Those who want to apply to adopt a road can fill out an application form at www.michigan.gov/MDOT.
The Ferndale Community Foundation is looking to do a little sprucing up as well and is taking to the streets — and the parks, and their yards and beyond. The group is hosting its first Clean the Ferndale Up! event May 12, when residents can come together to pick up the city and promote clean public spaces.
“It’s a day of activism in Ferndale,” said Matt Nowaczok, board member of the Ferndale Community Foundation and chair of the event. “We’re a town of doers, and this is a way people can take that energy to help beautify and take ownership of our community.”
The event will begin at 8:30 that morning with a check-in at Ferndale City Hall, 300
E. Nine Mile Road. From there, volunteers will be assigned areas around the city where they’ll plant flowers, rake leaves, pick up trash and perform other needed tasks to beautify the area. Nowaczok said Ferndale is fortunate to have a great Department of Public Works, but sometimes it takes a few extra bodies to keep the city as beautiful as it should be.
The inaugural cleanup is being sponsored in part by a number of city groups, including the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority, the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce and Ferndale Public Schools. So far, Nowaczok estimates that there are at least 70 volunteers participating, and while he’s thrilled with the enthusiasm, he hopes even more residents will come out to help make their neighborhood a nicer, more idyllic place.
“It’s an opportunity to take ownership of the problems that we see. I’m a firm believer that you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. We need just a bit more human power to make things a little friendlier and a little more inviting,” said Nowaczok.
To find or post a cleanup event near you, visit www.keepingmichiganbeautiful.org.
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