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Hundreds of students, volunteers take to the streets in 16th annual Flint River and community cleanup

9417514-largeOriginal story by Chris Aldridge for MLive
April 27, 2013

Flint, MI — Flint Northwestern High School student Paul Jackson-Lewis has a heart for volunteering.

He first heard about the Flint River and community cleanup through Flint Northwestern’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program.

“We’re trying to clean up the streets of Flint and we’re picking up trash so we can have Flint looking better,” said Jackson-Lewis, 15.

Starting outside the Wade Trim building in downtown Flint, Jackson-Lewis bagged trash as others swept sidewalks, cleaned windows and raked grass in downtown Flint from the Durant Hotel to City Hall and from Harrison to Beach streets.

He joined an estimated 300 volunteers participating in a cleanup spanning 20 sites in downtown Flint and along the Flint River in both Genesee and Lapeer counties from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 27.

During last year’s cleanup, trash, large items and hundreds of tires removed from the river amounting to 17 tons of waste. The Flint River Watershed Coalition expected about the same this year.

“When people see garbage, they tend to have a bad image of the river and think that it’s polluted like it used to be in the old days,” said Casey Foote, development director for the Flint River Watershed Coalition.

According to Foote, the city’s storm drains – which empty into the river without a filtration system — are to blame for most of the river’s pollution. Despite trash and automobile fluids leaking into drains, Foote said the river has become healthier over the years thanks to

the Clean Water Act.

“When we go and clean it, we go out afterwards and take people on kayak trips. It’s a great place to recreate – it creates that good up-north feeling.”

Foote hoped the cleanup would bring a healthy perspective to people in regard to the river.

“It has a big community impact,” Foote said. “When they see a clean river, they feel better about themselves and the community in which they live in.”

Ichthus of Flint — a nonprofit organization specializing in networking for young professionals — supplied a team of 50 people to cover the “community” portion of the cleanup, according to Josh Spencer, director of Ichthus and owner of The Spencer Agency in downtown Flint.

“So often, I feel like we don’t get involved with our own communities,” Spencer said. “If we really care about

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seeing our community changed, then we really need to get involved and help make a difference. It’s really easy — a few of us spending a Saturday afternoon in the spring is an easy way to make a big impact.”

Spencer said the idea to expand the Flint River cleanup into the community started when Ichthus partnered with Flint River Watershed Coalition three years ago.

After the cleanup, participants headed to Capitol Theatre in Flint for a free barbecue luncheon. Those involved were also given a free aluminum water bottle for participating.

The event was funded through support from local businesses and a $2,900 grant acquired by Genesee County Parks from Great Lakes Commission, according to Rebecca Fedewa, executive director of The Flint River Watershed Coalition.

Equipment was provided by the Flint River Watershed Coalition and Downtown Development Authority.

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