2016-04-07 / News

Biddeford church resumes weekly downtown cleanups

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD —Second Congregational Church will resume a weekly cleanup of downtown neighborhoods starting this Saturday, April 9. The congregation did similar cleanups last fall for several months, which the Rev. Catherine Anglea said attracted families and groups of friends who went out together in teams to remove litter from downtown neighborhoods.

Anglea said the church decided to resume the community cleanups after people had been approaching her in recent weeks asking when they could start cleaning again. The church will open its doors at 7:45 a.m. every Saturday for the next month, said Anglea, and provide coffee, gloves and bags to volunteers.

Anglea said volunteers are organized into teams, with one team starting in the immediate vicinity of the church and others starting in other areas.

“If they come across something they don’t want to touch such as glass or a needle, they can let us know and we can come get it,” she said. “We can also call the police department for needles.”

From September to November last year, Anglea said volunteers found three needles, a bag of drugs, lots of empty alcohol shooter bottles, cigarette butts and bags full of dog feces.

“Why would you even bother to pick up (the dog feces) just to throw the bag in the bushes?” Anglea asked.

The teams will clean until 9:30 a.m., when the church bells will be rung to call volunteers back to the church to return the gloves and wash their hands.

“The first month or so, we are going to go weekly because there’s a lot of stuff that has been accumulated over the winter that needs to be picked up.”

Anglea said after the first month, the cleanups may be scaled back depending on the need.

Delilah Poupore, executive director of Heart of Biddeford, a downtown revitalization organization, said Second Congregational Church’s efforts were helpful in cleaning up areas of downtown that other organizations don’t often address.

“The cleanups they did in the fall weren’t so much on Main Street, but in the neighborhoods around Main Street,” Poupore said. “They were very helpful in getting it organized and Cat, who is the minister there, is always trying to do things to build the community.”

Anglea said many volunteers for the cleanups were people from outside the church’s congregation.

Poupore said Heart of Biddeford has helped organize the Adopt-a-Park program and 10 city parks have been adopted by organizations that will maintain them throughout summer. Heart of Biddeford is also organizing with students from Biddeford High School and University of New England to hold cleanup days for Clifford Park and the Eastern Trail.

Anglea said she noticed a ripple effect from the community cleanups last year.

“Last fall when we were doing it, it was unexpected – people in the community started taking care of their property a little better,” Anglea said. “People are showing they can care about their community and then others say to themselves, ‘I guess I can take care of my own (property).’”

Anglea said the cleanup effort developed naturally, starting when church volunteers were cleaning up the church’s property and areas around the church.

“People wanted to start going a little further and next thing you know, we were doing the whole neighborhood,” she said.

Anglea said the church will continue organizing the cleanups until volunteers stop showing up or there is no trash to clean up.

“It is kind of fun when you see families who show up together, or people who know each other show up,” Anglea said. “It can be fun and a great way to show your care for the community.”

The first community cleanup organized by the church this year will occur Saturday, April 9, at 8 a.m., as Second Congregational Church at 19 Crescent St.

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