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More than 100 volunteers deploy for first citywide cleanup day

By: Cortney Casey | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 14, 2011

 Theo Visger, 14, from Bethesda Christian Church, mounds mulch on a berm at Carol Zenow’s home on 15 Mile. More than 100 volunteers — mainly from Everyone a Chance to Hear, a consortium of local churches — helped out during Sterling Heights’ first-ever Community Pride and SHINE Day June 4.

Theo Visger, 14, from Bethesda Christian Church, mounds mulch on a berm at Carol Zenow’s home on 15 Mile. More than 100 volunteers — mainly from Everyone a Chance to Hear, a consortium of local churches — helped out during Sterling Heights’ first-ever Community Pride and SHINE Day June 4.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Carol Zenow’s property was swarming with people, all of them hard at work: cutting tall grass, hauling wheelbarrows, spreading mulch, grooming a spruce-studded berm facing 15 Mile.

Before that morning, Zenow didn’t know these strangers now filling her driveway with their mowers, rakes and trimmers. But she couldn’t have been more grateful for their presence on June 4 for Community Pride and SHINE Day, a citywide initiative to spruce up properties.

“I think it’s a wonderful program,” said Zenow. “These people who volunteer, they’re all so — it’s all good energy. I’m very grateful for the service.”

More than 100 volunteers —most from Everyone a Chance to Hear, a consortium of local churches — dispersed throughout Sterling Heights June 4 for the event, organized by the city’s new Neighborhood Services Division.

The division is responsible for the Sterling Heights Initiative for Neighborhood Excellence, better known as SHINE, an effort to maintain property values by cleaning up blight, encouraging code compliance and supplying assistance to residents with physical and financial barriers to home and yard upkeep.

For Community Pride and SHINE Day, individuals were encouraged to conduct spring cleaning around their own homes, while the city linked up people in need of assistance with teams of helpers. The volunteers also rotated among neighborhood parks to retrieve litter and pull weeds. In all, they lent a hand at more than 30 sites.

“They just did such a wonderful job,” said Neighborhood Services Manager Pat Brockway. “For our first time, I can’t imagine doing it without this group of people. It was just such a breeze with their help.”

Zenow’s backyard proper looks like a page out of Better Homes and Gardens, full of lush shrubs and vibrant flowers, but she’s struggled to keep up with a grassy attached lot that brings the size of her property to nearly 4.5 acres.

When volunteers and a landscaping company Zenow commissioned to do part of the work arrived, the grass on the vacant lot was about 2 feet tall, said Terri Tucker, a Troy resident and parishioner at Community Christian Church.

Tucker became involved “to be a witness that the Christians in the neighborhood are willing to help people,” she said, “and not only help them, but give them the good news of Jesus Christ, and just to be an example and help wherever there’s a need.”

Team leader Eric Messelt, pastor-elder at Lakeside Bible Chapel, said he’s relatively new to Sterling and saw the event as a prime opportunity to get to know his neighbors.

“We, as a church, we’ve been in a continuous conversation about loving our city,” he said. “We want to be able to do that in practical ways in additional to spiritual ways.”

Working alongside them was City Manager Mark Vanderpool and his son, Cole. Before Zenow’s house, they had helped clean up the yard at an unoccupied home across the street, where the grass was over 3 feet high, he said.

“It’s nice to see parents and kids and seniors, individuals of all ages, helping out,” he said. “We’re trying to make the community as nice as possible.”

At her home near 18 Mile and Van Dyke, Pauline Parmelee eagerly awaited volunteers’ arrival that morning.

The 86-year-old has meticulously maintained her front yard, studded with lilac and rose bushes, to the best of her abilities, but an expanse of grass in the right of way withered and died, leaving an unsightly brown patch. Parmelee said her health prevents her from correcting the problem, and a relative who planned to re-seed it injured his back.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said of the city-helmed efforts to organize volunteers. “I was going to have a company do it; but they wanted so much money, I couldn’t afford it.”

Even prior to Pride and SHINE Day, volunteers were lending a hand around town.

Employees from Keller Williams Realty in Sterling Heights recently cleaned windows and buffed floors at the Polish Army Veterans Home on Clinton River Road for the company’s nationwide Renew, Energize and Donate Day.

Student volunteers from the Inside America Foundation’s Young American Achievers Society purchased and planted flowers in and around the gazebo near City Hall. And Eckert’s Greenhouse and Perennials donated six potted plants for placement around the Upton House and its nearby gazebo.

Brockway said Community Pride and SHINE Day will be an annual occurrence — next year, it’ll likely be in May — but the Neighborhood Services Division will continue to coordinate smaller cleanups throughout the year.

For more information on SHINE, to volunteer or to request assistance, visit www.sterling-heights.net or call (586) 446-2360.

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