By Lisa Spengler
Braving frigid weather, Ocean City organizers and volunteers participated in the New Jersey Clean Communities Program on Monday as part of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
The MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service.
“New Jersey Clean Communities is a statewide litter-abatement program,” Ocean City Clean Communities Coordinator Charlotte Moyer said. “Over 30 volunteers endured the extreme weather conditions to participate in today’s citywide cleanup.”
The cleanup is in its 12th year. Residents of Ocean City and surrounding communities volunteered to pick up trash and litter at Ocean City parks, schools and other locations on a day that registered sub-zero temperatures with the wind chill factored in. At 9 a.m. the temperature was 15 degrees. With winds whipping at 28 mph, the wind chill dropped to minus-8 degrees.
Volunteers arrived between 9 a.m. and noon at the Howard S. Stainton Senior Center at the Ocean City Community Center. After they received their trash bags, gloves and assigned locations, the volunteers enjoyed coffee, hot chocolate and pastries before departing to their cleanup sites.
“We are thankful for those brave souls who came out today,” said Doug Bergen, Ocean City public information officer.
Alston Wang and Kulan Lin, of Linwood, arrived shortly after 9 a.m. Wang, an eighth grade student at Belhaven Middle School in Linwood, and a member of the Junior Honor Society, performed his honor society service hours with Lin while cleaning up the grounds of the Ocean City Primary School.
Ocean City Councilman At-Large Keith Hartzell fought wind gusts of over 30 mph while walking gingerly on ice patches to clean up the Richards Grimes Field at Sixth Street and Haven Avenue.
“Dick Grimes was an important black member of our community from the ‘60s on,” Hartzell said. “He coached kids, cut the grass and fed the kids who were hungry. That’s why the field is dedicated to him, and that’s why I cleaned his park.”
There were a number of warm and comfortable places where three 15-year-old members of the Ocean City High School Key Club could have spent their Monday. But the young women, Ava Kelly, Noelle Graham and Madison Majors, choose instead to volunteer their time on this day of service.
Madison’s mother, Anne Majors, and her brother, Ayden, also braved the freezing temperatures to volunteer their time. All five were assigned to the grounds of the Ocean City High School.
“It’s good to be cleaning up the high school, since we go here,” Noelle Graham said.
With rosy cheeks and smiling faces, Kelly and Majors agreed with Graham and were thankful to be part of the day of service at the high school.
As volunteers arrived back at the Senior Center, they were greeted with a feast of hoagies, pretzels, salads and desserts.
With a sense of pride and accomplishment, Rob Malmitano, 12, was ready for some “comfort food.”
When asked about his cleanup location, Malmitano said with a huge smile, “I did the Intermediate School, and that’s where I go.”
Hopefully, the weather for the next communitywide cleanup, on Jan. 20, 2020, will be warmer so that more people will be able to embody the true meaning of the day of service as envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.”
For more information on the New Jersey Clean Communities Program, visit www.njclean.org.