The Times West Virginian

April 13, 2014

Hundreds of volunteers cleaned up streams, playgrounds

By Chelsi Baker
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Good samaritans roamed the streets Saturday morning to Make Marion County Shine. An estimated 250-300 volunteers cleaned litter from roadsides, parking lots and even streams for the third year as part of Make Marion County Shine in areas of Fairmont, Mannington, Bellview, Barrackville and White Hall.

The program not only helps clean up the streets, but also raises awareness of just how much litter there is on the ground, said Iris Canfield, a cleanup participant and organizer.

“It gets a lot of people involved,” she said. “It makes them become more aware of the litter and the trash that’s all around. For example, smokers (who helped) are now aware that they shouldn’t throw out their cigarette butts.”

Jackie Fitch, the program’s founder, also wants to increase positive feelings among the community about their town and encourage people to be more conscious about littering, she said.

“We cleaned a playground,” said Fitch. “We just want the playgrounds to be clean for the kids. Don’t throw your trash down so the kids can play in the trash. It’s really not good for the kids’ self esteem. When they’re playing and trash is around, how can they feel good about themselves?”

Canfield has always hated seeing litter, so she became involved in cleanup efforts.

“I hate people complaining about something and not doing anything about it, so it’s really simple just to get out there and pick it up,” she said.

Her group took to the streets — Industrial Drive and part of Manley Chapel Road — at 8 a.m. and cleaned until nearly 10:30 a.m.

They filled 32 bags with garbage.

“That’s just a few hours of our Saturday morning, and then we have the rest of the day to do whatever we want,” said Canfield. “Just a few hours of cleaning makes a really big difference.”

Fitch started Make Marion County Shine as a localized version of the statewide cleanup effort, West Virginia Make it Shine. The program provides the Marion County effort and other cleanup programs with gloves, bags, hauling and landfill fees every year at the beginning of April. She, Canfield and another partner, Linda Fravel, organized the program and took to social media to recruit volunteers. The effort has grown ever since.

“It brings people together,” Fitch said. “You meet friends. I still have friends from when we started the first year, and then more and more (people) come. It becomes a community thing to do.”

A group of young men from the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Fairmont State University cleaned up areas of Locust Avenue.

“We’re all pretty much best friends, so usually we count on each other to be there for each other, and this is just one way we help the community and do it together,” said Johnny Guzman, the chapter president. “It’s just fun when you do it with your friends.”

The fraternity, which regularly participates in community service activities, learned about the cleanup through the university, and members participate every year “to have the opportunity to influence our community and be able to actually have an impact not just here within our university....” Guzman said. At the end of the morning, volunteers gathered for lunch under a pavillion at Morris Park.

The West Virginia Department of Highways traveled around the county to pick up the bags of litter.

Email Chelsi Baker at cbaker@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @cbakerTWV.