By Joel Hall
Members of several community organizations, and a number of other volunteers, will be rolling up their sleeves next Saturday, May 15, to take part in the Great American Clean Up, Forest Park edition.
Keep Clayton County Beautiful (KCCB), Inc., the Forest Park Teen Council, the Forest Park Minster's Association, and other groups, plan to literally clean up the streets of Forest Park's Ward 1. They will not only pick up trash, but plant flowers, too, in an effort to take ownership of their community.
The effort is scheduled to last from 9 a.m., to noon.
Volunteers will assemble at the Paradise Church of God in Christ, located at 4295 Hendrix Drive. From there, they will fan out into the community to collect trash from roadsides and yards, and plant potted flowers in special beautification areas.
KCCB Director Edie Yongue said this will be the third year her organization, the City of Forest Park, and the Forest Park Minister's Association have held clean-up events in the area. Volunteers from the Forest Park Kiwanis Club, the AT&T Pioneers program, and the recently-formed, Forest Park Teen Council, will participate, also, she said.
"The whole focus is that people are taking responsibility and cleaning up their neighborhoods," Yongue said. "It helps with economic development. When we have people come into our community and clean it up, it makes it look better. It also should make people feel safer. This is a good way to come out and be with people and feel like a part of something."
Forest Park Mayor Pro Tempore and Ward 1 Councilwoman Sparkle Adams said next Saturday's event will be the first "big project" for the Forest Park Teen Council, a city-sponsored youth council promoting civic engagement.
She said the effort is one way young people can have a positive impact on the area. "Our ultimate goal is to [clean up] the whole city, ward by ward, and to instill Forest Park pride again," Adams said. "The city is bringing out those large roll-out containers, and we're encouraging neighbors to clean out their garages, mow their lawns, empty their garbage, plant flowers. If there is an elderly person in need of some service, like painting, we're also encouraging people to let us know.
"We'll teach them [children] about academics, we'll teach them about sports, but we don't teach them a lot about everyday living," she continued. "What it's teaching them is to take pride in their neighborhood. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to keep a village clean."
Rev. Leon Beeler, president of the Forest Park Minister's Association, said that before the end of the year, the groups will target all five of the city's wards for some kind of clean-up event.
During Saturday's event, as pastors walk the streets collecting trash, they will also offer up prayers for the community, he said. "As ministers, we also go through and pray for the people of the community, so we are cleaning and praying at the same time," Beeler said. "If we see somebody out there, we'll ask them to come and help us. We believe that the impact is that, if you help clean a man's yard, that will encourage him to keep his yard clean. We want to show them that we care about the community, and that they should join in the caring also."
According to the sponsors, volunteers will receive water and a free hot-dog lunch following clean up activities. For more information, contact Edie Yongue at (770) 473-5996.