MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — In the heat of the day, it felt like it was 90 degrees at the corner of Broadway Avenue and Hoyt Street. The mostly clear skies offered little reprieve from the bright sun. It was oppressively hot. And yet, eight volunteers took to the streets undeterred by the conditions.
The volunteers were just a small fraction of a growing list of more than 600 people on the Muskegon County Litter Clean-Up Facebook group. Their grassroots mission is to keep the county they love so much, as clean as they can possibly make it.
"We work with so many diverse parts of the community, but we see the beauty of the community as a whole," said volunteer Connie Smith. "What you see is everybody working together towards the same goal. Nobody likes litter. Everybody wants their community to be clean, and that's what we're about."
Smith serves as sort of a de facto spokesperson, for the group. But this effort actually started with a single Facebook post made by one of her cleaning companions.
"Mary Patton began the group. I think she saw a need. [There was] some litter in a location, and she just said, hey, does anybody want to join me? She formed the Facebook group," Smith said.
That was back in May 2021. Since then, the group has grown to more than 600 members. People can find out when group cleaning efforts are going to be and they can bring attention to an area they believe may need some special attention.
Smith, a former township supervisor, has been able to use her background and connections to work with government officials and businesses to make sure volunteers can clean safely and at no cost.
"We supply gloves. We supply MDOT vests. We supply MDOT bags that we get for free. We haven't spent a dime doing this. Nothing," she said.
Smith typically works with municipalities to make sure bags collected during the clean-ups are picked up the following day. She's also had businesses agree to let the group use their dumpsters.
So far this year, the group has cleaned up more than 1,000 bags worth of litter. They average about 30 bags for every two-hour event they organize. They list their recent accomplishments on the Facebook page once every month.
Smith says any community can organize a group like this, and she's hoping the people who she volunteers with will inspire others to do just that.
"Every single bag of litter makes a difference. Just go out and pick up one bag of litter," she said. "Even if it's just where you want to focus on your own neighborhood. Wherever you want to do it. But if you want to form a group like what we've done, and have it countywide, all the better."
Smith says the Muskegon County group is also willing to help people from other communities get an idea of what it takes to start up something like this.
"We would all be thrilled, and I would love to have their ideas. What other ideas are out there for us to be able to hold events? Get in touch with us."
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