SCHENECTADY — Charlie O’Hern doesn’t need a date on the calendar to decide to clean up his neighborhood. To him, every day is Earth Day.
O’Hern, along with the office of Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, is working to remove litter each weekend, neighborhood by neighborhood.
“I think there’s a groundswell of people in the city that are very unhappy with the litter situation,” O’Hern, now a city employee, said. “I think the mayor’s response to it is to try to get people working on it a little bit.”
Saturday marked the third weekend that O’Hern has enlisted the help of neighborhood and community organizations to tackle litter on the streets of Schenectady. The city’s Neighborhood Volunteer Spring Clean-up events are scheduled through June 18.
O’Hern said he will re-evaluate the program and suggest any changes or improvements to the mayor’s office.
O’Hern joined the city in December with the task of formulating a plan to help remove litter from the city streets. With that mandate and a budget of $0, O’Hern has his work cut out for him.
“I’ve contacted neighborhood associations, churches and the ROTC,” O’Hern said. “There are different corporations that have volunteer groups set up and people get credit for doing some volunteer work, which I think is kind of a cool thing. You’ve got to tap into every available resource to get people to do this.”
On Saturday, the task was cleaning up Crane Street with the help of The Bridge Christian Church and team leader Pastor James Bookhout.
“Our church cleans up Crane Street for a couple blocks each week because we want to represent our community,” Bookhout said. “We have people coming in from out of town and when they come up Crane Street and they see litter it’s really a blight. We want to try to put our best foot forward.”
Bookhout is also the president of the Mont Pleasant Merchants and invited O’Hern to speak to that group about the city’s initiative.
“Now our church, the merchants and the city are all working together in partnership versus trying to reinvent the wheel,” Bookhout said.
The message of pride and cleanliness is carried through by Bookhout at church services.
“If we can get the parents to teach their children to clean the children then relate that principle to their everyday lifestyle and then that lifestyle is carried over to others who are watching them,” Bookhout said. “Our principle is biblical — bring Christ into the mix and then everything else changes because Christ changes our heart. When our hearts change then our families will be changed and our children will be changed.”
The next neighborhood events are scheduled May 21 in the Bellevue Neighborhood starting at Hillhurst Park at 9:30 a.m.; May 28 and June 4 at State Street starting at 1101 State St. at 9:30 a.m.; June 11 starting at Albany Street meeting at Woodlawn Park at 9:30 a.m.; and June 18 for the Central State Street neighborhood, meeting at 108 North Brandywine Ave. at 9:30 a.m.
“It’s going to take consistency, it’s going to take people with a change of heart, a change of attitude,” Bookhout said. “We have to work together as a community. One church can’t do it, one business can’t do it, we’ve all got to do it together.”
To sign up to volunteer, visit www.cityofschenectady.com/744/2022-Volunteer-Spring-Cleanup-Events. Volunteers can also sign up by contacting O’Hern via email at [email protected] or by phone at 518-708-5979.
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