Orange was the new black for Keep Hamburg Beautiful, an annual event organized by the Our Town Foundation of Hamburg on Saturday, April 22.
Volunteers donned orange safety vests and work gloves, grabbed plastic trash bags and did their part to keep the small Berks County town neat and clean.
With just a few hours effort, more than 50 bags of waste were collected.
“What made today special is that our clean up day has actually fallen on Earth Day,” said Lori LaPearl, clean-up coordinator. “I feel we should treat every day as Earth Day and keep not only our community clean, but keep our planet clean.”
The 77 volunteers who gathered in the Hamburg Community Park at 9 a.m. that morning agreed. In addition to individual residents, six organizations were represented: the Bridge Church, Cub Scout Pack 120, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Niagra Bottling Company, Hamburg Area High School’s Wilderness Club and Murphy’s Jewelers.
Mark Jensen, a new pastor at St. John’s, volunteered with his wife, Carla. The couple moved to Hamburg this spring.
“It’s important to our community, to show we care about it,” Jensen said, adding, “We’ve found the area to be absolutely beautify, so any effort to help is worth it.”
His wife agreed, noting that they were involved in similar efforts in their former hometown.
“This is just a natural way to help,” she said.
Hamburg resident Egon Leutze, a member of St. John’s, was at the clean up with his family.
“We’ve done it before,” Leutze said, “to help clean up the community, to help the community and have a presence in the community.”
Some volunteers did not live in the borough, but still wanted to help. Among these individuals was George Pechuch, who lives in nearby Lenhartsville.
“I do my shopping in Hamburg, so I figured I should help,” he said, “plus, I’m retired, so it’s a way to keep active.”
Moscow native Alena Benzrihem, who now lives in Miami, added international flair to the event. She was visiting her sister-in-law Mary Benzihem over the weekend and the two decided to volunteer together.
“We have some things like this in Russia but I’ve never volunteered, never been,” Benzrihem said, gesturing with her work gloves. “I like it, it’s so many people and it’s fun.”
All the volunteers received basic instructions before Sandy Carlson of the Bridge Church offered a prayer of safety for the clean-up effort. LaPearl’s husband, Frank, handed out maps dividing the group into separate quadrants.
Volunteers then scattered, scouring streets, parking lots and alleys of Hamburg Borough. They collected 40 bags of trash and an additional 13 bags of recycling materials.
LaPearl reported that most of the volunteers returned to the park by 11 a.m., and everyone enjoyed a picnic including hot dogs, cupcakes and water.
“I felt today was a huge success,” La Pearl said afterwards, with “by far the most volunteers that we have had to date since I took over as cleanup coordinator in 2014. I’m amazed at the number of people who came out to help clean up and make our town beautiful.”
“We may be a small town, but we take pride in what we have,” she added, noting that some volunteers came from as far as Boyertown. “I think it’s great that we are reaching out even beyond our community for people that want to help volunteer.”
Sponsors for Keep Hamburg Clean included Hamburg Southgate Neighborhood, PennDOT, Keep America Beautiful, St. John’s, Thrivent, Berks Packaging and Niagra Water.
The Our Town Foundation, which organizes annual clean-up events in Hamburg, was formed in 2002 with the goal of revitalization the town and its surrounding communities. For more information, readers may visit the office, 335 State Street, Hamburg, or call 610-562-3106.