SOUTH PLANFIELD, NJ – Volunteers, armed with trash bags and gloves, didn't let cloudy skies and a little rain deter their efforts to make South Plainfield a little cleaner. On May 4, close to 200 residents took part in the borough’s 33rd annual Spring Volunteer Litter Clean Up. 

“This was a record turnout for the Saturday cleanup,” said Alice Tempel, environmental specialist and clean communities coordinator for the borough.

During the town-wide event, sponsored by the South Plainfield Clean Communities Advisory Board, volunteers, including residents, town leaders, and members of local organizations and school groups worked to fill large trash bags and clear some three-dozen sites within the municipality. According to Tempel, 80 orange bags were reported with additional bags filled by eight other groups throughout the day.

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Areas along well-traveled streets such as Oak Tree Avenue, Park Avenue, South Clinton Avenue, Hamilton Boulevard, Woodland Avenue, Metuchen Road, and Durham Avenue at the 287 overpass were tackled as were Cotton Park, Spring Lake Park, Pitt Street Park, and Walnut Street Park. The clean up also focused on the areas round the senior center, borough hall, rescue squad, library, schools, and Highland Woods Nature Preserve.

This year’s participants included close to 20 individuals as well as members of Boy Scout Troop 309, Girl Scout Troop 65199, the Republican Committee, South Plainfield Lions Club, South Plainfield High School Lacrosse Team, National Honor Society, the South Plainfield Environmental Commission, St. John the Apostle School and the South Plainfield High School Environmental Club, which, said Tempel, fielded 100 volunteers who worked at nine sites. 

“In other years, we had close to this many people by the end of the week...The number of people who came as unaffiliated volunteers was higher than usual,” said Tempel, noting that the South Plainfield Middle SchoolEnvironmental Club is also expected to do a clean up later this week. 

Following the clean up, volunteers gathered in the court room at borough hall for a ‘thank you’ party featuring pizza provided by Papa John’s and McCriskin-Gustafson Home for Funerals, sandwiches provided by Hometown Heros, and soda and door prizes paid for by a Clean Communities grant. 

“I’d like to thank the Environmental Commission and Green Team members and others who helped run the event, including Tom Walsh, Jordan Mandel, Debra Ann Leporino, Lisa Roseo, Debbie Boyle, Tom Benton, my husband Leigh Walker, and the members of the governing body who served pizza to the returning volunteers,” said Tempel. 

Special thanks, added Tempel, also go to Dave Street, a borough resident and professional environmental education for his ‘5-minute presentation on the history of litter and how volunteers made a real difference for the town on Saturday’ and Kathleen Benton, a South Plainfield High School science teacher and co-chair of the school’s Green Team, for organizing her students and supporting the event. 

Tempel said she is looking forward to seeing how many people, by the end of the week, took the #Trashbag challenge. “Anyone who took before and after photos of their cleanup spot and posted them to [Instagram using both hashtags] #Trashbag and #LitterfreeSP will be entered to win a $50 gift card donated by the Facebook group ‘We Are South Plainfield.’ Additionally, photos will be reviewed for the ‘Most Unusual Piece of Litter,’ which will win a $25 certificate from KC’s Corner.

As of press time, the fall community clean up is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 7. Additionally, Adopt-A-Spot locations throughout the borough are still available. For more information, call Alice Tempel at (908) 226-7621 or email atempel@southplainfieldnj.com

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