Taking pride and action in our communities

I helped to improve my community on Saturday — and you can do that, too.

In this space on Feb. 24, I wrote about how disappointed I was to see the large amount of litter that was revealed when the winter snow and ice began to melt away. I cited “the brick road” — aka Goshen Township Road 206, Palmer Road or John Street, depending on which section you are on –that leads into the village of Belmont as an example of an area where the debris had really piled up.

Later that same day, Belmont Mayor Stan Sobel launched an effort to solve that problem. He started with a group text to several people he thought would care about the appearance of the community and would be willing to help. He asked those folks to get together to clean up the debris and to recruit others to help as well. A little while later, an announcement appeared on the community Facebook page.

To help move the project forward, I contacted Tammy Shepherd, Belmont County program director for JB Green Team, and asked if her organization could help. She responded quickly, saying that the solid waste management group would be happy to provide supplies for the volunteers. I helped her and the mayor connect, and soon the village had all the supplies needed for the project.

Unfortunately, the first scheduled cleanup date had to be scrapped. Snow and extreme cold derailed those initial plans, but Sobel did not give up. He rescheduled the effort for this past Saturday and spread the word, including with an announcement published in The Times Leader.

At noon Saturday, a group of more than 20 residents gathered at the end of the road. A village police officer blocked one end of the roadway with his cruiser, while the fire department parked an ambulance across the other end to stop traffic and keep the volunteers safe.

Those individuals, ranging from 7 or 8 years old to more than 70, fanned out and made their way up the hill. They wore bright-colored vests and gloves and carried trash bags, all supplied by JB Green Team.

As they walked along the edges of the road, the volunteers collected aluminum pop cans and plastic bottles, glass beer bottles, paper cups, sandwich wrappers and containers, plastic cup lids, straws, pieces of cardboard, paper bags, hunks of fabric, chunks of rubber and more. Some of the items were still frozen to the ground, but the residents were not deterred. They used rakes, grabbers and their hands to work the items loose and clean them from the roadway.

When their work was done, in about an hour or less, the volunteers had collected 46 garbage bags full of trash. They found all of that debris along a stretch of road that Sobel estimated at just under a mile in length.

In the end, the debris filled an entire large Dumpster, according to Sobel. And those who took part had the chance to enjoy cupcakes and cookies donated by Little Annie’s Sweets, a business located in the heart of the village.

“What made me happy was not only the great turnout of our citizens, but also the mix of students who helped. There were six students ranging from second grade through high school helping today,” Sobel said after the work was done Saturday afternoon. “I believe it is important for students to take pride in their town and get a real feel for how our environment is affected by careless drivers who toss their garbage out the window.”

Sobel, a retired Union Local science teacher, makes some very good points. It really was wonderful to see children, teens and young adults taking part in this effort to make their community cleaner and more appealing. I had been concerned that only older retirees would take time out of their Saturday to walk up and down the road and collect other people’s trash.

Participation by so many young people gives me hope for the future. Perhaps they will make this an annual event for many years to come. Or maybe they will even be motivated to clean up other areas of the village, Goshen Township or Belmont County.

I also was pleased to be part of an activity that drew together so many different community members. It was clear that even though Belmont is a small village — our population was estimated at 439 people in 2017 — a large number of those who live there truly care about the way the village looks and makes people feel when they visit.

There certainly are plenty of people who don’t care about the community or its residents, though, as evidenced by the large amount of trash they had discarded along that roadway. I hope that they will notice the work that has been done and refrain from spoiling the area again. All they need to do to make a difference is take their trash with them to the nearest appropriate receptacle and deposit it there.

I also hope that other area communities will follow the example set in Belmont and take the time to make their cities and villages shine. I am proud of my little hometown and the many people who cared enough to come out and help clean it up on Saturday.

If you would like to make a similar impact in your own area, give it some thought and then put a plan into action. Reach out to your friends and neighbors and see if they, too, would like to whip things into better shape.

As the old saying goes, “many hands make light work.” When people come together for a common cause, their mission can be accomplished much more quickly and easily.

So, get together with other like-minded individuals and get to work. You’ll be surprised at what a difference you can make in a short time.

If you need supplies, advice or other assistance, contact the JB Green Team. It has many resources available. For more information about how that organization can help, visit jbgreenteam.org or email Shepherd at tshepherd@jbgreenteam.org.

I extend my thanks to Shepherd and JB Green Team for the help provided to my community. Thanks, as well, to Mayor Sobel for heading up the effort. I also truly appreciate the contribution by Little Annie’s Sweets (the cupcakes were delicious), as well as the efforts of all the volunteers — especially the young students who gave up a portion of their day off from school to help make Belmont a better place to live.