By Jordan Cohen
“God’s Work — Our Hands,” read the words on gold-colored T-shirts.
The hands belonged to volunteers from the Trumbull Area Lutheran Coalition, some of them children. Their work: the cleanup of litter all along Main Street Southwest on Sunday afternoon.
“We’re reaching out to our neighborhoods and showing them that we care,” said Dirk van der Duim, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church of Hubbard. “Serving others is just as holy as anything we do in church.”
The church was one of six that provided volunteers for a street that could visibly use some help.
“This entire area is in need of cleanup and some demolition, and there are definitely crime and safety concerns,” said Christina Anderson, program assistant for the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, an organization working to improve the quality of life in the various neighborhoods. “It’s obvious Main Street needs help.”
Anderson, a veteran of more than a dozen of these cleanup projects, said she was contacted by the Lutheran churches whose members wanted to help.
The timing was important to the church. Van der Duim explained that Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and that the cleanup was part of a similar nationwide effort of volunteering to beautify communities.
The partnership provided gloves, rakes, shovels, trash bags and metal grabbers for the volunteers to pick up plastic and glass bottles.
One of the volunteers, Shonie Garono of Hubbard, brought along her four children, 8-year-old triplets and a 6-year-old, who enthusiastically went after any and all debris they could find. She said she wanted her children to understand why they should not litter.
“This is about being a responsible part of the community,” said Garono as she carefully picked up some plastic and deposited it in one of the bags. “That’s what I want them to get out of this.”
The message apparently got through to one of the triplets, Shawn.
“I think we can help the environment,” he said while concentrating on using a two-pronged metal grabber for his litter pickup.
The group had to be careful while working on the bridge above the Mahoning River. Parents kept a close watch on their children as cars sped by, some at higher-than-normal speeds.
Volunteers also concentrated on the litter-strewn entrance to the abandoned Gould-Stewart Park. Anderson said the group would not go into the former park because “there have been homeless people pitching tents there, and we’re concerned about the safety of the children.”
The Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership plans more cleanups and is encouraging neighborhood groups to get involved.
“There’s no shortage of places that could use our help,” Anderson said.