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Community-Wide Cleanup

by Albert B. Kelly, Mayor, City of Bridgeton

This stands as an open invitation to residents, friends, and supporters to come out and lend a hand in helping to keep our community free of trash and litter. Dealing with this issue may seem like a small thing compared to the much larger issues facing us these days, but it matters a great deal. So much so that it formed one of the pillars of support in what came to be known as the “broken windows” theory of policing.

The broken windows theory basically takes the position that smaller issues (i.e. broken windows, graffiti, trash and litter, etc.) if left unaddressed, will lead to more serious crimes. Just how strong the link might be is something that is the subject of some debate.

We know is that nothing good comes from the accumulation of trash and litter; it depresses property values and creates a blighting effect in the neighborhoods and communities where it exists. At a minimum, its presence helps fuel the worst stereotypes about race, ethnicity, and economic status.

But I see better things for our community. For one thing, a great many people care about the Bridgeton community either because it’s now—or once was—the place they call home. Regardless of the reasons, many people care and I know that because back in March, when we held the first installment of the community-wide clean-up, we had over 80 people come out to lend their support and their sweat equity to the effort. This group collected approximately 200 large trashbags full of litter and 76 bags of recyclable materials from roadside areas, alleys and spaces all over the city.

In March, we were also pleased to have the support of the students in Bridgeton Public Schools from several grades under the leadership of the arts supervisor who guided their efforts to create posters and signage to remind and encourage residents and visitors to help keep our community litter-free. Having our students and young people take part in these efforts gives us a huge lift and a lot of hope for the future.

On Saturday, September 25 at the Riverfront in downtown, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. you may sign up. Teams of people will spread out in various corners of the community with bags, gloves, and pick-up sticks. Starting about 3 p.m., volunteers are invited back to the Riverfront area for refreshments and some fellowship.

Whether you come as part of a church group, with co-workers from your workplace, as a family, or going solo, we’ll be happy to see you. Children are welcome but need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Because we’re still working our way through this pandemic, face masks will be required and social distancing will be in order when possible and practical.

My hope is that we will have an even larger group than we had back in March. Obviously the end result matters and that result is having cleaner streets, but there is more. It has to do with the whole idea of community spirit. I say that because community spirit is elusive and often hard to define. You know it when you see it, and these days it looks like a committed group of residents picking up trash and litter city-wide on a Saturday in September—and that’s no small thing.

Mayoral Musings