Residents can join in city cleanup

By HASKEL BURNS,

Since 1992, the fourth Saturday of October has been celebrated as Make a Difference Day in the United States – a day which emphasizes community service and volunteerism.

Hattiesburg will join the observance again this year with a city-wide cleanup day on Oct. 26, during which citizens can sign up to help pick up litter for a proactive approach in making Hattiesburg even more aesthetically pleasing.

“We started it last year, and we had more than 200 volunteers participate,” said Samantha McCain, chief communications officer for the city. “Our big focus for this event is to really empower our neighborhoods to take ownership of their area.

“Last year we had 16 different service sites throughout the city, so we’re really hoping to increase volunteers for it, but also reach additional neighborhoods that we did not get to last year.”

Anyone interested in volunteering can sign up at http://bit.ly/hburgmadd19 to help surpass last year’s total of more than two tons of garbage collected from streets and neighborhoods. After completing the online forms, participants will be contacted by officials from Mayor Toby Barker’s office with more information on the pickup day.

“We have approximately 35 organized neighborhood associations, and there are more than 50 established neighborhood districts throughout the city, across every ward,” McCain said. “The area around Thames Elementary really adopted the park space there (last year), and helped add new mulch and plants to beautify that area, whereas other parts of our city helped with picking up litter.

“So the project idea is really endless. We just really want the neighborhoods to rally around their own area – get out with their neighbors and help clean up for Make a Difference Day. The more we can engage in nationwide initiatives like this, it just continues the trajectory of us being very service-friendly, very mindful of picking up general trash and leaving our community better than we found it.”

For this year’s event, officials are also reaching out to businesses with a large employee base for a Friday cleanup day, rather than the scheduled Saturday.

“They might want to do something in conjunction with Make a Difference Day, since it’s on a Saturday, so we’re open to that as well,” McCain said. “It would be held on October 25.”

Although the event is still several weeks away, officials have already had received a good amount of interest from community members.

“Several of the neighborhoods that were on board last year have already signed up,” McCain said. “This year we’re really focused on community organizations who might also want to own a small piece of their Hattiesburg.

“As a matter of fact, we just met with the station for WUSM (radio), and we’re working on a campus initiative for them to really kick-start their piece of What Make a Difference Day can be for their part of Hattiesburg. So that’s going to be really cool as well.”

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