Later, litter: Annual cleanup project slated for Saturday in Joliet
BY CINDY WOJDYLA CAIN email@example.com March 18, 2013 6:24PM
Krissy Atterholt from University of St. Thomas picks up trash, near the intersection of Washington Street and Henderson Avenue. | Paul James Bergstrom~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 20, 2013 6:27AM
JOLIET — Some people drive or walk past litter and think, “What a mess.”
When Virgil Kemp sees litter, he thinks about picking it up and getting other people to volunteer to do the same. He has organized 190 litter cleanup events in the city in the last three years.
He added a new, larger event last year that involved college students looking for a better way to spend spring break than partying on a beach. Students from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., traveled to Joliet and picked up garbage on the city’s East Side.
The event was such a success, Kemp has organized a second cleanup, which is to be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the same location, between Washington and Henderson streets just west of Norton Avenue near the Metra tracks.
About 40 St. Thomas students are expected to arrive Friday night for the outing. The United Methodist Church in New Lenox is providing lodging and food for the group.
Additional volunteers are welcome, Kemp said. Bring your own gloves and arrive dressed for cleanup duty.
Kemp’s group, called Helpers of Mother Earth, also is beginning to remove invasive trees and bushes from the sites they clear of garbage.
While erasing litter from the landscape is Kemp’s passion, he realizes it’s not for everyone. Some volunteers help one day and he never sees them again. But there is a core group of about 10 people who have stuck with him week after week.
“There are very few people who want to take ownership of what their community is like,” he said. “So the people I have, these people are my heroes. They come back time after time and they don’t expect anything from anybody else.”
Those cited by Kemp include Angela Tadin, Tim Policandriotes, Carol May, Tori Murry, Brian Early, Margie Allen, Ted Lopez, Ed Cygan, Jacqui Wooldridge, Antione Edwards and Dave Sauter.
The group keeps returning to the same lot off Henderson Street in Joliet because there are layers and layers of garbage that have been dumped there for years, Kemp said.
“You pick up one layer and you think that’s all that’s there. But you pick it up and then there’s more and more and more,” he said.
The anti-litter group has found clothing, tires, broken glass, roofing materials, car parts, bottles, household garbage, broken toys, old coolers and “anything imaginable,” Kemp said.
The group’s enthusiasm for litter removal seems to be catching on. An area church group says it has 50 parishioners who want to help, and a local college group also is interested in litter removal.
“So there are some exciting things happening,” Kemp said.
Kemp still wishes more would be done to educate people about their personal responsibility to Mother Earth.
“When you buy a product, a cup of coffee, a TV or groceries, you are responsible for the wrapping and the box and you are also responsible for the item when it gets old,” he said.
It’s all about personal power, he said. While individuals may not be able to solve the Earth’s larger environmental issues on their own, “you can do something about litter,” he said.
For information on Saturday’s cleanup and/or Helpers of Mother Earth, contact Kemp at (708) 767-1797 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.meetup.com/helpersofmotherearth.