Lierin Rossman spends most of her week working hard as an attorney at the downtown law firm of Stucky, Lauer & Young. But on a recent, chilly April morning, she was shuffling through a Waynedale park, toting a flimsy, plastic trash bag and picking up other people’s garbage.
As part of a citywide – and nationwide – effort to clean trash from parks, neighborhoods, vacant lots, trails and greenways, the Great American Cleanup took place on the morning of April 21.
According to its national sponsor, the Great American Clean-Up is touted as the country’s largest beautification and community improvement effort. Last year alone, more than 4 million volunteers took part in the effort around the nation.
Groups who took part in the local event this year ranged from churches, youth groups, schools, businesses, neighborhood associations, families, and even some individuals who just wanted to help by themselves.
The roughly 5,300-strong people – comprised of about 280 groups — of trash-collecting volunteers fanned out throughout the city, cleaning such areas as Girl Scout Troop #00547, Cub Scout Pack #3302, Boy Scouts Troop #430, Kingston-along the St. Marys Pathway, Dupont Road between Lima and Coldwater Roads, and the neighborhoods around South Side High School.
In Waynedale, groups tackled the land around Airport Expressway, near Smith and Bluffton Roads; Avalon Missionary Church-Lower Huntington Road, Winchester Road near Babcock Lane; and at the soccer fields in Foster Park East and, in nearby Pawster Park.
Sporting t-shirts provided by the City of Fort Wayne, and with gloves and plastic trash bags also given out by the city, the volunteers got to work cleaning up the park from about 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Within a few minutes, Rossman and her coworkers already had bagged several crumpled papers, plastic bags, even the plastic end of a discarded syringe.
“You don’t realize how much trash is out here until you start walking the areas,” said Chris LaPar, another lawyer with Stucky, Lauer & Young. “You just don’t see how much there is when you’re driving by.”
“We all have a responsibility to clean up after ourselves,” added Dan Lauer, another attorney with the Waynedale cleanup group.
Once groups around the city finished their local cleanup efforts by around noon, they were invited to congregate downtown for a thank-you celebration hosted by the city. Held in Headwaters Park East from about 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., the party offered free hot dogs, chips and drinks for the volunteers, as well as a free raffle ticket with the chance to win gift cards from such places as Kroger, Applebees, Pizza Hut, Vera Bradley, Batteries Plus and DeBrands Chocolates.
WMEE 97.3 played music for the event, and there also were games for children: Ring toss and games of catch played with recycled milk jugs. The free hot dogs were grilled up by volunteers from the John Chapman chapter of the local Kiwanis Club.
Frank Suarez, Public Information Director for City Utilities and Public Works, said the event was important for a city like Fort Wayne.
“When you live in a climate like ours, with the winters we have,” Suarez said, “the wind and storms tend to blow away the trash and knock over bins; plus, there are people who just plain litter. This is a way to beautify those areas and help clean up that garbage.”
Sponsors for this year’s event included radio station WMEE 97.3, Glad trash bags, Lowes, Menards, Dow Chemical, Chick-fil-A, Applebees, Pepsi-Cola, Parkview Hospital, Kroger, Pizza Hut, Sport One, Sweetwater Sound, PhD Manufacturing, TriState Warehousing, Visit Fort Wayne, Fuel Dynamics and the local Boys and Girls Scouts.
Last year, the event collected more than 190,000 pounds of debris. And although final collection statistics weren’t available on this year’s cleanup, the group was able to pick up 190 discarded televisions and roughly 730 tires that had been thrown away on public lands.
Besides giving her a chance to get out in the spring weather, Rossman said her time cleaning up the park was the right choice for her Saturday.
“It’s the right thing to do,” the 31-year-old Rossman said while stooping to grasp an errant cardboard cup, “And it’s only once a year. Plus, there’s a lot of kids who play here all the time; so, this is important.”
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