BELMAR, NJ — Once weekend crowds clear from the Belmar beachfront, there is a group of volunteers hitting the sand every Monday evening in a far different way.
Beginning at 7:30 p.m., they conduct what is billed as a “socially distanced, beach cleanup” — a grassroots effort organized by Belmar resident Colleen Sullivan Palus, who has planned weekly cleanups through Labor Day and always looking for community members to pitch in.
The effort kicked off on July 6 with a great turnout, said Palus, who rallied volunteers through social media after seeing posts with photos of trash left behind by beachgoers.
“An unanticipated bonus was enjoying a spectacular sunset together on an uncrowded beach with everyone feeling safe. Plus getting some exercise in the fresh air, taking part in community action and observing others doing good deeds is great for the body, mind and spirit,” she said.
Cleanup participants are asked to bring their own trash buckets or bags, gloves and masks to wear when social distancing cannot be maintained. “We encourage volunteers to bring the trash home, rather than placing it in our town’s overflowing garbage bins,” she said.
In fact, Palus encourages all beachgoers at all times to carry out their trash, especially after what volunteers discovered during the first cleanup.
“While most residents and visitors are doing the right thing — not littering — properly disposing their garbage in the trash receptacles provided, we noticed that many of the beach's trash cans are toppled over by sea gulls and become giant bird feeders,” she said. “We also found many single-use sanitizer wipes littered all over the beach. Because the borough's trash receptacles do not have covers, items such as hand wipes, single-use face masks, plastic straws and other lightweight trash, easily blow out of the garbage receptacles and into our ocean.”
Participants can choose any portion of the 1.3-mile beachfront to collect trash. However, they are encouraged to wear green “so we can spot one another and feel connected to the effort,” Palus said.
For youngsters, the cleanup may qualify as a service activity, particularly for local Girl and Boy Scouts, who are asked to contact their Scout leaders for more information. However, there will be no supervision of minor children.
“We are free-range volunteers — please, practice good common sense,” said Palus.
Adding to the community camaraderie, there is a weekly Instagram photo contest, featuring snapshots from that particular cleanup. Volunteers can post Instagram photos of their service and tag Instagram account @Move4Belmar and #move4belmar.
All submissions must be received by midnight on the day of the cleanup, and a randomly selected “winner.”
For the July 6 effort, Belmar resident Sydney Sheridan’s photo was selected, winning her dinner from Federico’s Pizzeria and Restaurant, which is donating the weekly prize throughout the entire month.
Palus welcomes businesses to partner with the effort to donate contest prizes. For more information on becoming a sponsor or getting involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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