ROCKAWAY -- Yes, it was the coldest of all previous cleanups, but the energy that the 35-plus environmental enthusiasts put into Potbelly's Riverside Cafe's 10th annual Rockaway River Fall Cleanup made it seem like a warm spring day to Rob Grow.
Grow, a life-long resident of the borough and owner of Potbelly's Riverside Cafe just off the Main Street bridge in the borough, spent the morning and part of the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, working with hardy volunteers who picked up trash that had accumulated along the banks of the river since their last cleanup this past spring.
The cold weather and frigid water kept the cleanup crews from going into the river to pull out garbage -- for the most part, anyway.
Elysa Schuckmann, a junior at Morris Hills High School, spotted an automobile tire hung up on the rocks in the shallows below the Jackson Avenue falls and was determined to get it out of the river.
"We didn't want anybody to go into the river for obvious reasons," Grow said. "But Elysa was convinced she could walk across the rocks, get the tire, return to the shore and say dry.
"She almost made it, too -- she she slipped off a rock and got her feet wet a little," Grow added with a laugh. "Her mom and I were standing by just in case, but that's when we decided to wait until our spring cleanup to get to the rest of the stuff we spotted out of the water."
Warmed with hot coffee and hot chocolate from Potbelly's, most of the volunteers worked the banks along the river between the falls behind the firehouse and the falls at Jackson Avenue for the better part of three hours.
"It was good to see people in town concerned with the environment and having fun -- especially the kids," said Grow. "Our thanks also go to the Rockaway Borough Teachers Association, the Rockaway Hardware Store, Cipollini Carting and Recycling, the Hacklebarney Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and the DPW in town.
"We'll be back in the spring ... when it will be much warmer."
Potbelly's will once again participate in the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Christmas program ... new, unwrapped toys can be left at the restaurant where they will be picked up by Santa on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 9 a.m. ... kids of all ages are urged to visit to help Santa and the Marines load the Toys for Tots train with toys that go to underprivileged children ... for additional info on Toys for Tots or future river cleanups, please call Grow at 201-602-6836.