Cleanup called success

Published 11:08 pm Saturday, May 2, 2009

Standing on the tailgate of a tool and plant-filled pickup truck, Randy Lilly was surrounded by hundreds of neon yellow-clad volunteers filling the roadway and parking lot at Second and Center streets.

“If you all want to make the community a better place you have to be involved in some way,” Lilly said from his make-shift podium, adding that he was encouraged by all the youth who were participating in the Ironton Volunteer Day once again.

“This is our 10th year. Several thousand people have come down here to help us accomplish a lot over the years,” Lilly said. “Dan Palmer has taken this to a countywide cleanup and we have more than 1,000 volunteers in the county today cleaning up.”

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That brought roaring applause from the civic minded individuals.

Mayor Rich Blankenship surprised Lilly with a plaque recognizing his civic commitment over the past decade.

“With all your help, we can do this,” the mayor said. “With Randy’s leadership, we have been able to make a difference in our community.”

“This thing isn’t about me. It is about all of you,” Lilly countered. “This is about the people in this community.”

And it was people that came out in droves to make the countywide cleanup a success.


Gray skies and scattered showers didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for the first county-wide event of this nature. Dan Palmer, director of the Lawrence Scioto Solid Waste Management District, said the efforts have completely surpassed expectations. The district bought nearly 700 T-shirts to give away. That wasn’t nearly enough.

Neon yellow was the color of the day across the county as the volunteers donned the shirts signifying they were part of the cleanup and proclaiming the mission in bold letters: Keep Lawrence County Clean.

“We’ve got a tremendous turnout throughout the county,” Palmer said. “It wouldn’t surprise me, if when we get all the results in, that we will have more than 1,000.”

Dozens of groups participated. From civic organizations to school groups to 4-H clubs to church memberships and everything in between, this event had lots of support.


Dee Carpenter and Jeanie Reffitt walked the ditch-line on Lane Street in Coal Grove, braving the weeds to fish litter out of the water.

“If we are going to live here, someone ought to take pride in the village,” said Carpenter, a councilman in the village.

Reffitt doesn’t even live in Coal Grove but wanted to pitch in.

“I love Coal Grove. I grew up here,” she said.

“She’s a true Coal Grovian,” Carpenter said with a chuckle.

“I want to take pride in it,” she said. “I love this place.”

And it was those sentiments — civic pride and love for community — that drove people to come out for the event.

“I just wanted to come out help out the community. I think this is real important,” said Howie Lucas, a junior at Ironton High School who volunteered for the first time, joining more than 50 other Ironton students. “We just need to come clean up things. It shows we actually care about our city.”

Nearly every single St. Joe student in grades 7 to 10 — a total of about 60 — participated as part of the school’s service project.

“I think this is important. I am glad the school encourages it,” said Glennie Hopkins, an 8th grader who was participating for the third time. “It really gets us involved.”

Before the event got started, Hopkins and her classmates said they were really excited about mulching and pulling weeds, a fact that was confirmed by Maria Whaley, religious teacher and service coordinator for the Ironton Catholic Schools.

“It is not a chore for them. They seem to enjoy it and love working together,” she said, adding that this volunteerism is part of the school’s improvement plan that includes taking the catholic social teachings into the community. “They will talk about this all week.”

Students and educators from Dawson-Bryant Elementary tackled a more than four-mile stretch of State Route 243 from the school to Zoar Hill.

Dawson-Bryant High School students got a jumpstart Friday by cleaning the interchange at U.S. 52 and Marion Pike.

The Concerned Citizens of Burlington, AARP and others focused on County Road 1 and other residential areas in South Point and Burlington.

Operation TLC (Tidy-Up Lawrence County) continued the efforts from its cleanup program just a few weeks ago by gathering at the Chesapeake Community Center to focus on Chesapeake and Proctorville. They were joined by nearly 70 students from those schools.

The Moose Family Lodge, members of Ironton in Bloom, city councilmen Leo Johnson and Frank Murphy, commissioner Les Boggs and others were part of the hundreds in the Ironton contingent.

Many were pleasantly surprised at how clean the downtown already was.

“There are a lot of businesses that didn’t need any cleanup,” said Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the county’s Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, adding that the city leadership is doing a good job of making this a priority. “Many of them are taking care of their areas.”

The way the citizens have embraced this effort has ensured that it will become an annual event, Palmer said.

“We are really building on recent efforts,” Palmer said. “We are seeing more people with energy and who are enthused about this and want to clean up their community.”