Volunteer wave helps tidy up the place in Clean Sweep
By ROBERT WHALE
Auburn Reporter News reporter
May 13, 2009 · Updated 5:03 PM
Ah, Saturday, a chance to rise late, relax in your robe, sip coffee, pore over the sports section.
But for 600 Auburn residents last weekend, the pull of roadside gunk pickup, weed pulls and graffiti removal proved more powerful, drawing them into the orbit of Auburn’s annual Clean Sweep.
Focusing on major cleanup and beautification efforts in different parts of the city, volunteer groups swept over the spring landscape, painting graffiti-defaced walls to make them one color, sprucing up highway on-and-off ramps and working on pruning and beautification efforts along the Interurban Trail and at Veterans Memorial Park.
Service clubs, social service agencies faith-based groups, scouting troops, businesses and individuals responded to the City’s call, sweating side-by-side on 19 different projects.
Among the participants was the Auburn Youth Council. It staked out its ground under the F Street overpass, stuck brushes in young people’s hands, gave them gray paint and loosed them on a checkerboard of graffiti.
As the Youth Council’s Nicki Burkhauser, 13, explained proudly: “We’ll always help our community.”
But what sort of scrubbing doesn’t toss up a few gross bits? This one didn’t disappoint.
“Well, there was this one big heap of gum in that crack,” Burkhauser pointed, adding that he didn’t know if the urban squirrel who left it there planned to return and resume work on the well chewed blob.
Dressed in shirts that said, “Democrats Work,” a group of 31st District Democrats pulled weeds and picked up litter on the Highway 18 on-ramps from C Street Southwest. Brian Gunn, a member of the 31st District Democrats, explained what brought his crew out.
“We specifically had folks who are Democrats come out and give back to their community in a meaningful way,” Gunn said. “The work is non-partisan, but what I’m trying to do is change the nature of politics. I want to take it away from being about egos and building somebody up, make it about how we can actually give back to the community.”
Puffing from climbing up one side of a hill and down the other, Frank Lonergan’s face shone with sweat under his cap.
“I’m a citizen of Auburn, and I care about the city, and anything that’s going on that I can help out, I do,” said Lonergan. “Today, we’re just weeding out the beds here and picking up the litter.”
“I think this is wonderful,” Patti Szot said. “This is my town, and I like to keep it clean. This is what I feel we should be doing, giving back to our community. We pulled weeds, horsetails, and did a lot of cleaning up in general to make it look beautiful.
Darlene Simpson-Brown, “almost 80,” got the biggest kick out of the kids.
“I got here early, and there were all these kids out here, some from West Auburn High School Vocational Ed,” Simpson-Brown said. “A lot of times I’m surrounded by geezers like me, and I just love it when I see young people.”
The City provided breakfast, instruction sheets for each project site, garbage bags and Dumpsters for debris.
Volunteers brought tools based on their volunteer assignment and a broom for the ceremonial sweep along the sidewalks of Main Street.
The 2009 Clean Sweep project began City Hall at 7:30 a.m. with group registration and a pancake breakfast prepared by Kiwanis Club of Auburn. Volunteers then take part in the ceremonial sweep at 8:30 a.m., followed by the collective project at various sites throughout Auburn.Contact Auburn Reporter News reporter Robert Whale at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-833-0218, ext. 5052.