TERRE HAUTE —
An army of volunteers with easily recognizable bright green shirts spent Saturday morning cleaning up the streets of Terre Haute.
Wearing shirts marked with “Keep Terre Haute Beautiful,” hundreds of volunteers — individuals, families and local groups — participated in a city-wide cleanup, with a goal of cleaning up 1,000 city blocks surrounding or facing the Wabash River.
The cleanup was a result of partnerships between Keep Terre Haute Beautiful — a committee of local organization TREES Inc. — the City of Terre Haute and Republic Services. Cleanups are organized once in the fall and the spring, each with a focus on different parts of the city.
During Saturday’s cleanup, organizers decided to clean up neighborhoods that surround the Wabash River, an idea that came as a result of 2013 being designated as Year of the River.
The volunteers gathered bright and early at a shelter by the Wabash River at Fairbanks Park to learn the day’s effort was focused to help keep litter from blowing into the river.
“If we pick up all this litter [in surrounding neighborhoods], it’s that much less trash that’s going to get into the river” if a strong wind comes along, said Jane Santucci of TREES Inc. and Keep Terre Haute Beautiful.
The goal of cleaning up 1,000 city blocks is a new goal this year, Santucci said, “which we’re actually going to achieve plus more,” thanks to the huge turnout Saturday.
“I’ve never seen as many people,” at the cleanup, Santucci added.
Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said Saturday’s turnout was the biggest he has seen since taking office.
“It really jumped up this year. This is a huge turnout,” Bennett said, pointing out the groups of young people who have volunteered to help.
Among the young people were Terre Haute North boys soccer team members Joseph Sumansky, Matt Zigler and Jacob Wilson, who had a method to pick up trash along Poplar Street near Sixth Street. One person held the trash bag as all three picked up cigarette butts, cups and other litter.
“It makes me proud that they’re willing to volunteer their time on a Saturday,” said Polly Sumansky, a parent who accompanied the group.
Other soccer team members were assigned to different parts of the city.
“It makes the city look better... [and] I want them to learn that volunteering should be a part of their lives,” Sumansky said of the team effort.
At Eighth Street and Walnut Avenue, a one-person cleanup crew also worked to keep Terre Haute beautiful.
“I’m trying to,” Rose Whalen said as she laughed.
The Terre Haute resident carried a bag full of trash even after walking just two blocks.
“If you live in this city, you want to keep it clean and nice,” Whalen said.
“It’s just good to get involved in your city and do something,” even in a small way, Whalen said.
Other volunteers also did their part.
Nancy Bradford and Ruth Erickson picked up trash on the railroad along First Street.
In addition to the usual litter — straws, lids and cups — the pair also found something bigger: a wheel cover.
“This has been horrible ... broken glass everywhere,” Bradford said of the railroad.
And passing motorists noticed the pair’s effort.
“We’ve had a lot of people that thanked us,” Erickson said.
The kind words were appreciated but Erickson said she just believes “in keeping all of our areas clean,” especially around the Wabash River.
If people want to connect with the river, Erickson said, “we have to keep the surrounding areas clean.”
Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.