Municipalities pitch in to put litter in its place

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11757143181865.jpg’, ‘Logo courtesy of‘, ‘The cleanup will be from 8 a.m. until noon April 21, with a 12:30 p.m. free lunch for volunteers at Trinity Lutheran Church, 200 N. First St., in Rockford.‘);

It’s spring again, which means the pure-white blankets of snow have receded to reveal the garbage and litter that has been out of sight and mind for months.

As part of the nationwide annual Great American Cleanup, Winnebago County, the City of Rockford and Winnebago/Rockford Clean & Beautiful held a joint press conference March 29 to announce a county-wide cleanup.

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) acknowledged, “There’s a direct correlation between the health of a community, a community’s crime rate and poverty rate, and whether or not that community cleans its streets, takes care of its yards, picks up litter and is otherwise orderly.”

The Great American Cleanup is organized by Keep America Beautiful and touts 2.5 million volunteers nationwide.

Although Winnebago/Rockford Clean & Beautiful has coordinated local cleanups for more than seven years, this will be the first county-wide effort.

“It empowers individuals to enhance our own community environments,” said Lori Gummow, executive director of Winnebago/Rockford Clean & Beautiful. “People involved experience an increased sense of unity. Communities are healthier, children can play more safely where objects and trash has been removed…and we all have a greater sense of community pride.”

Gummow cited a litter study conducted in the fall, which she said is the first step in litter prevention.

“We looked at 177 points throughout the area, and we gave litter a rating,” Gummow explained. “The study revealed that the community is ‘slightly littered.’”

The cleanup will be from 8 a.m. until noon, April 21, with a 12:30 p.m. free lunch for volunteers at Trinity Lutheran Church, 200 N. First St. in Rockford. A rain date has been set for the following Saturday, April 28.

County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen urged individuals and groups to pitch in.

“Keeping our community clean and litter-free as possible is certainly a benefit to all of us,” Christiansen said. “We are encouraging all Winnebago County citizens to volunteer for this worthwhile effort to clean up the litter in our neighborhoods.”

Volunteers are urged to call Winnebago/Rockford Clean & Beautiful at 1-815-637-1343 to sign up in advance.

“We’re coordinating this through our mapping technology with WinGIS [Winnebago County Geographic Information System],” Christiansen noted. “We’ve got areas identified that are very much in need, and we can either assign those, or if people have their own choice, obviously we’ll try and keep them as close as possible to where they live.”

The cities of Rockford, Loves Park and South Beloit have pledged their cooperation, along with the villages of Machesney Park, Rockton, New Milford, Durand and Cherry Valley.

“We’re very proud to be part of this effort,” Loves Park Mayor Darryl Lindberg said. “I think I speak for probably all the mayors that our relationship with Winnebago County is, to me, at an all-time high.”

Participating municipalities are urging community organizations such as Rotary Clubs, Boy and Girl scouts, neighborhood watch and youth groups to get involved.

Machesney Park Mayor Linda Vaughn reported, “The effort in Machesney Park is to get a lot of different people, a lot of different organizations, involved in this.”

In Rockton, volunteer groups had already stepped forward for a community cleanup in preparation for the village’s first-ever Rockton in Bloom.

Village President Dale Adams noted, “This really ties in nicely with Rockton participating this year in the America in Bloom.”

New Milford Village President Bonnie Beard already started making a list of target areas in her community.

“Our biggest problem is on Highway 251, because of the garbage trucks,” Beard explained. “We do have a core group starting to work, so I’m looking forward to all of us helping and make it clean and beautiful.”

Cherry valley is not without its own litter problems, according to Village Administrator David Nord.

“Being a small community—we are right on the interstate—we’re very excited about being involved in this very worthwhile program, and Cherry Valley will show up en force,” Nord promised.

Although Trinity Lutheran Church will serve as a central location, volunteers will also be able to pick up gloves, trash bags and tongs at the following locations throughout the county:

Harlem Township Town Hall

Rockton Village Hall

Cherry Valley Village Hall

New Milford Village Hall

Winnebago County Highway Department

Mayor Morrissey argued litter cleanup and prevention is an ongoing process.

“It doesn’t mean we stop after that day and don’t do the work throughout the year, but it really is important to have focused efforts to show what we can do,” Morrissey stated.

Organizers hope the collaboration will continue, and indicated another cleanup is in the works for after Labor Day.

“We’re looking to achieve long-term sustainable results,” Gummow said. “Litter is simply a symptom of behavior, and we are hoping to change that with all of your support.”

from the April 4-10, 2007, issue

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