By Maria Jose Subiria
A local organization is looking for neighborhoods interested in making their communities shine.
Keep Clayton County Beautiful is conducting its annual "Great American Cleanup," which is part of a national event, and will voluntarily clean neighborhoods for the betterment of the environment.
The organization, which was created in 1981, promotes maintaining and beautifying neighborhoods in the county. This year's program began on March 1, and will run until May 31.
The cleanup celebration began about five years ago, said Edie Yongue, executive director for Keep Clayton County Beautiful. "Anything we do is volunteer-based, but this one in particular includes a lot of folks."
Volunteer work, such as picking up litter, and planting flowers, is part of the program to assist participating communities. There are several neighborhoods in Riverdale, Rex and Forest Park in the program, said Yongue. "Last year, we had about 15 neighborhoods. We want to get people involved in their communities."
Yongue said the program has moved slowly this year, mostly because of rainy weather.
"I think it's a wonderful opportunity, with this economy, to participate, due to the fact we're trying to supply most of the supplies to you," she said. Once a neighborhood registers for the program, it is provided with such things as flower seeds, trash bags, gloves and litter grabbers.
"Last year," she said, "one neighborhood in Riverdale had a parade in their neighborhood, and solicited their neighbors to come out and help."
She said many residents have a negative perspective on their community and its surroundings, because of the incidents of crime and violence reported by the media.
"If you show you care, they [perpetrators of crime] might not come in there, because it shows them who we are, and what we are doing," she said.
Yongue said her group will work with local residents, and the Forest Park Ministries Association, to tackle one of the largest county projects -- cleaning sections of Forest Park.
Leon Beeler, president of the Forest Park Ministries Association, said his organization has worked with Keep Clayton County Beautiful before, but it's the first time it participated in the protect as part of the annual, national observance. "We felt that was a way we can connect with the citizens, and the community," he said.
The association will begin working in Forest Park's Ward 5 council district on April 18, and will then tackle the remaining, four wards. The group of volunteers will gather at St. Timothy Evangelical Lutheran Church, at 5241 Ash Street, at 9 a.m. The project will run through the summer and fall.
The minister's association has asked the city to direct it to the areas that need the most assistance. "Last year, as we went through and cleaned up, people came out of their homes and joined in," said Beeler. "It helps people take ownership of their community."
Another event the national clean-up effort supports is "Amnesty Day," which is April 25. During that observance, Clayton residents are urged, beginning at 10 a.m., to bring perishable items, such as prescription drugs, aerosols, bleach, and fluorescent bulbs, for disposal, to the Clayton County Water Authority, located in The Flint River (W.B. Casey) Water Reclamation Facility, at 8890 Roberts Road, Jonesboro.
"This is the first time we are taking prescription medicine," said Yongue. "People, sometimes, flush it down the toilet and the substance gets in our water."
For more information on "The Great American Cleanup," contact Edie Yongue at (770) 473-5996. For more information on volunteering for the City of Forest Park, contact Leon Beeler at (770) 961-3799.