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Mon Valley communities clean up

| Monday, April 28, 2014, 2:11 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Positioning furniture atop a load of unwanted items from an elderly woman's home along Ohio Avenue in Glassport, Sean Gray seeks advice from fellow volunteers, from left, police Chief Howard Kifer, borough secretary Nancy Piazza-Whaby, Robert March, John McCombs and police Lt. Ron Benoit.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
In McKeesport, mayor's assistant Annette James and Marie Domingo clear trash and other debris from Riverview Street.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Clairton Mayor Rich Lattanzi stands by as volunteers Justin Colclaser, Matt Dehnoo, Joshua Abrahams, Jeff Kimbell and Heather Payo receive tools and instructions from city manager Howard Bednar, seated.

Area residents spent their Saturday proving it's everyone's responsibility to keep communities clean.

Volunteers from kindergartners to senior citizens cleared trash and other debris from their yards, parks and neighborhood streets in communities such as Clairton, Glassport and McKeesport — celebrating the Great American Cleanup one week later than its usual Earth Day observance, because of Easter.

The effort started on Friday in Clairton, with high school students and city police cleaning up the downtown area surrounding Clairton Education Center.

Joshua Abrahams participated on Friday and Saturday because he wants Clairton to have a better image.

“People who don't know Clairton say this is a bad place,” the teen said. “We're here to show people that it's not. We have people here who want to help. They want to do anything they can to make their community better.”

Clairton public works operator Eric Fusco said community support helps the city's small staff tend to other needs, rather than focusing on trash.

“After such a harsh winter, there's a lot of extra trash on the streets and in the sewer grates,” Fusco said. “Everyone's out here doing their part, and it helps us keep up with our other duties like filling potholes, cutting grass and getting our playgrounds ready for the summer.”

In Glassport, Saturday's program included spring cleaning for elderly residents who had unwanted furniture and other items cluttering their homes, porches and yards. Households that registered in advance were visited by city staff and residents, who volunteered to remove the items and place them in a Dumpster near the borough building.

“We're out here doing what we can,” police Chief Howard Kifer said. “These people want their properties to be clean, too, but they might not be able to take care of it themselves.”

Families and members of local service organizations, including the Glassport Lions Club and Glassport Community Crime Watch, set out in groups to pick up trash along the Monongahela Avenue business district and neighborhood streets.

Glassport council president David Kowalski said he's proud of the borough for coming together.

“This shows that people really do care and they want our borough to look nice,” Kowalski said.

In McKeesport, 16 groups adopted sections of the city for the weekend. After a long Friday of volunteering at the KaBOOM! playground build day in Highland Grove on Saturday, volunteers were out sporadically on Saturday and Sunday tending to their own neighborhoods.

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said the whole weekend embodied his motto of “working together for a better McKeesport.”

“A community cleanup is an opportunity for everyone to pull together to help make their neighborhood a better place,” the mayor said.

“We talk about restoring pride back into the community. This is a way individuals can contribute on a volunteer basis to make McKeesport a better place to live,” he said.

Annette James, the mayor's secretary, and Annette Domingo handled the 1900 block of Evans Street and 2300 block of Riverview Street.

“This is so important, because we have regular, everyday people out here keeping their community the way they want to live,” Domingo said. “We want to have a nice neighborhood to live in and enjoy.”

Jamie Gatewood of A Developmental Journey Christian Child Care supervised a dozen children as they cleaned up the 1800 and 1900 blocks of Beaver Street and surrounding alleys. The center encourages a sense of responsibility among its youth, Gatewood explained.

“We are teaching kids how to keep their community clean,” she said. “We set an example of what we can do to help and how we deal with our own trash if there isn't a garbage can around. Even the youngest kids know to put the wrapper in their pocket until they can find a trash can.”

Gatewood said A Developmental Journey's kids have regular anti-littering lessons and cleanup activities. They've watched films including Disney/Pixar's “Wall-E” to make the subject fun.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or