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(Above: Mary Rose Bendel, director of adult education and outreach at Carnegie Library of McKeesport, hands out gloves and trash bags to young volunteers on Saturday morning. Tube City Almanac photo.)
LISTEN: Residents talk about Earth Day cleanups (Duration: 9:29)
More than 150 people turned out Saturday morning at Earth Day-themed cleanup events throughout the city of McKeesport, while in neighboring communities such as Port Vue and Glassport, residents woke up early to get organized.
Tom Callahan of Port Vue was helping to man one of several large trash bins set up behind the Romine Avenue ballfields. "I do this every year," he said, adding that he was planning to be back at his post on Sunday morning as well. "It's a lot of garbage so far," Callahan said.
In the city, leaders of cleanup groups met at the Palisades on Water Street for breakfast and to plot strategy before meeting up with 15 groups of volunteers ranging from six people to more than 20 people throughout McKeesport.
One woman volunteered to clean the intersection of Walnut Street and Eden Park Boulevard by herself.
Mayor Mike Cherepko said the turnout was heartening.
"I would be lying if I said I was surprised, because here in the city of McKeesport, that's one thing that we're always blessed with is volunteers," he said. "No matter what it is --- no matter what the occasion --- this is just another example of people pulling together for the betterment of the city."
Council Members Keith Soles and Jamie Brewster-Filotei were among those designated to help lead the groups of volunteers.
For his part, Soles was planning to start the morning in the area of Washington and Jefferson streets, near Founders' Hall Middle School, and then head back out in the afternoon along Eden Park with other members of the McKeesport Lions' Club. The Lions have done the cleanup twice per year for three years.
"Tires, iced-tea cartons --- we find everything," Soles said. The first time they cleaned Eden Park near Renziehausen Park, he said, they hauled away 30 bags of trash. Now, with twice a year cleanups, their load is lightened, but they still regularly take away 10 full bags of junk.
"It's amazing to me that when we've cleaned up and we're heading back, we find garbage on the ground again," Soles said. "We've just picked it up, and I find garbage on the side of the road."
City officials also used Earth Day to remind residents that new recycling bins will soon be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Cherepko and others have said McKeesport lags other communities in the rate of households that recycle, and are hoping the bins make it easier for residents to do so.
The bins will be equipped with wheels and are being paid for with grant money, Cherepko said. The city recycles glass, metal containers, paper, cardboard and plastic.
The new bins will be "larger than the smaller ones we've had in the past, and we're going probably going to have two different sizes," Cherepko said. "We are going to really push the recycling program in the city of McKeesport."
Every pound of recycling collected is a pound that isn't hauled to a landfill at city expense, he said. "Not only can we recycle and do what's best for the Earth, just as importantly, when you're a city that's financially distressed ... we also get an opportunity to save money," Cherepko said.
Originally published April 24, 2017.