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10th annual Community Clean-Up Day ‘a great success’


Cold, rain, snow don’t stop Lansing residents from making a difference

by Katie Arvia and Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (April 27, 2019) – The rain started around 9:30am on the already-cold Saturday morning, yet hundreds of intrepid Lansing residents kept their commitment to participate in the 10th annual Community Clean-Up Day. Volunteers from church congregations, scouting troops, the Lansing Historical Society, and a variety of other groups came together to collect and properly dispose of trash in some of Lansing’s worst-littered areas.

“Even in the past, despite the weather, most people have shown up,” said Village Clerk Vivian Payne, as another group arrived at Village Hall to collect supplies—which included trash bags and recycling bags, plus breakfast bars and bottled water donated by Walgreens.

Village Clerk Vivian Payne (left) provides Community Clean-Up Day participants with instructions and a bag of supplies. (Photo: Katie Arvia)

Community involvement

Among those participating were Jonathan Vitale—the new pastor at Lansing Assembly—and his 13-year-old son Ezra. The Vitales moved to Lansing last August, and they have already made it a priority to give back to the community. “We want to be as involved with the community as possible,” said Pastor Jonathan. “The fact that there is a lot of community involvement is really inspiring.”

Among those participating were Jonathan Vitale—the new pastor at Lansing Assembly—and his 13-year-old son Ezra. They cleaned up the railroad crossing near Torrence Avenue. (Photo: Katie Arvia)

Ezra added, “If some people start cleaning up garbage, it’ll help inspire other people to do it. This world doesn’t have to be so dirty.”

The Lansing Assembly volunteers were joined by several food pantry workers, who also helped clean up across town, near Family Dollar and the alleys behind the old Music Lab building. By 11:00am, they had collected at least 10 full bags of trash, with no sign of slowing down.

Brothers Kevin and Ryan Lemenager (foreground) were among the Lansing Food Pantry volunteers who cleaned up the alley behind the Family Dollar. (Photo: Karen Adams)

Not only adults helped out: Lansing Boy Scout Troop #276 was stationed in the alleyway behind Besse’s Shirt Lettering on Torrence Avenue.

“As Boy Scouts, we always want to leave a place better than we found it. That’s our motto,” said Troop Leader Ray Fumi. “I think it’s always a great idea to help clean up the neighborhood where you live. We love conservation projects. Any time we can help out, that’s what we’re all about. Helping out the community and giving back.”

Ray Fumi (left) and Boy Scout Troop #276 are all about helping out. (Photo: Katie Arvia)

A group from Oak Glen United Reformed Church expressed the same sentiment and were determined not to let the weather keep them from getting involved and getting to know some neighbors. With gloves and grabbers, half the group tackled a litter-filled ditch near Tri-State Nursing Home. The other half of the group cleaned up around Burlington Coat Factory.

From left: Jay Krygsheld (in the weeds), Clara Krygsheld, Samantha Venhuizen, Sandy Venhuizen, Kevin Ooms, and Bob Venhuizen were part of a group from Oak Glen United Reformed Church who saw Community Clean-Up Day as an opportunity to make a difference in their village. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

A few members of the Environmental Club at TF South used Community Clean-Up Day as an opportunity to rack up some service hours. They cleaned the strip of lawn along the north side of the frontage road.

From left: Kathy Doan, Matthew Pimentel, Mrs. Ouida Dyer-Bradford (Sponsor), and Mayra Velazquez (President) of TF South’s Environmental Club spent a Spring Break Saturday making a visible difference in Lansing. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The Environmental Club filled a few bags with trash they picked out of the lawn along the frontage road. They also found a shopping cart, so they used it to transport their trash bags. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

It was shortly after 11:00am that the rain began freezing into snowdrops—yet the workers kept working. In the field near the old PetSmart building, a dozen members of the Lansing Historical Society filled bag after bag of trash. Another group finished cleaning up Lan-Oak Park, and rather than going home, they expanded into the surrounding neighborhoods.

Lansing Historical Society members Joe and Jen Saia helped clean up the grassy field near the vacated PetSmart building. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Snow and fellowship

By 11:30am, the snow was falling thick and fast, and cleaning teams were starting to arrive for the picnic lunch provided in the First Church PCA pavilion.

A rain-soaked Doug Cable didn’t stop when he finished cleaning Lan-Oak Park; he expanded into the surrounding neighborhood. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
By the time Mario Bovino (foreground) and other clean-up volunteers made it to the pavilion for lunch, the snow was falling thick and fast. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

“We’ve never had snow before!” laughed Payne, who has coordinated 10 years of rainy, sunny, windy, and cold Community Clean-Up Days. “I’m surprised how many people came out.” Payne has always scheduled the event on the Saturday before the Good Neighbor Day Parade, but next year she’s considering moving it up a week. That would allow a make-up day on the next Saturday in case of inclement weather.

Mayor Patty Eidam (right) returns from clean-up duty and warms up by the grill, where (from left) Trustee Mike Manno, Trustee Brian Hardy, and Volunteer Tom McSwiggan were busy cooking hamburgers and hot dogs for Clean-Up Day participants. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

But fellowship was warm under the pavilion, and tired volunteers laughed about the crazy day. One pointed out that the smell in the ditch she cleared would have been much worse in warm weather. Another expressed appreciation for low winds, which made it easier to handle the trash and bags. And everyone liked being able to see the visible difference they had made in their town. Payne calculated later that the volunteers had filled an entire 30-yard dumpster with trash.

“Despite the weather,” she said, “I think the day was a great success.”

The results were even clearer the next morning, when snowclouds gave way to bright skies smiling on Lansing’s litter-free parks and roadsides. Ron Tuinstra, a member of the crew from New Hope Church that has participated in the last three Community Clean-Up Days, summarized the experience: “It’s amazing how much you can get done in such a short amount of time with just a few people.”

Ron Tuinstra (second from left) is part of a large group from New Hope Church that has participated in the last three Community Clean-Up Days. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Katie Arvia
Katie Arvia
Katie is a lifelong Lansing native who currently works full-time in marketing while also freelance reporting for The Lansing Journal. In 2015, she graduated with high honors from Saint Xavier University in Chicago with a BA in English, and she plans to pursue a Master's degree in the near future. Her favorite Lansing Journal assignments include coverage of TF South High School's walkout ("Demonstrating the possibilities") and her St. Patrick's Day interview with her grandma ("St. Patrick's Day traditions: reflections of an Irish granddaughter").


  1. It is truly wonderful to see community members come together to help clean up the area. Good job, Lansing! But I am also wondering if there is a way to teach people not to throw their garbage on the ground in the first place? I work at River Place Shopping Center and sadly, every day I see trash and food garbage strewn around the parking lot. There are several food restaurants in the plaza, including Culver’s. Yet people are too lazy to walk over a few yards to toss their trash into the available garbage cans. Maybe Lansing could start a campaign that educates and discourages people from trashing the neighborhood so others don’t have to clean up after them.

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