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Volunteers Mobilize to Make Wheeling Shine

WHEELING — Dozens of people flocked to Wheeling’s local parks to pick up refuse and debris from the area, beautifying the city as part of the third annual Make Wheeling Shine event.

Armed with distinctive green bags, several people hit the pavement at the crack of 9 Saturday morning at Pulaski Field and Elks’ Playground. City Parks and Rec Director Rochelle Barry said they had 100 people signed up city-wide for the event by the morning. Wheeling Park High School students, Barry said, signed up as a group to clean up the Pleasanton playground near Wheeling University.

Barry was at Pulaski Field a few minutes ahead of schedule, with a few volunteers from Generation Wheeling, the local chapter of Generation WV’s network. Barry said the purpose of the day’s cleanup was to make the city not only more beautiful, but safer for residents.

“A lot of places, there’s random trash, broken glass bottles, everything — we want to make it safer for people,” Barry said. “We have kids here, we want to teach them to keep their community clean, so someone doesn’t have to come out and do it as much.”

Robert Felton, one of the group with Generation Wheeling, said he grew up in the area and that it felt right to help clean up his hometown.

“Our motivation is ‘Work, life and give.’ This was a perfect pairing to help give a little back,” Felton said. “I’m from Wheeling, so we kind of grew up on these playgrounds. It all comes kind of full circle to help come back and do our small part clean it up a little bit.”

At the Elks’ Playground, on 16th and McColloch Street downtown, several other groups had turned up by 9:15 to scour the park for debris and garbage, including several workers and clients of the YWCA. Jenna Richardson, the YWCA’s marketing director, was on hand to help clean and organize the other groups that were on site.

Richardson said she saw the morning outdoors as a great experience to get people back outdoors after a year spent cooped up inside and alone.

“We were really to get together after we’ve all been apart for so long,” she said. “This is a really nice team-building exercise for us, and we get to clean up our community. I think it’s really great for our youth board members to come out and do this. It’s a good way to get involved with the community and hopefully spark more interest with them. Our clients, I think it’s good to be out here with people who care about the community, and when you interact with the community, it brings a sense of place.”

Barry said that since the state’s West Virginia Make It Shine program is held in April, local efforts would coincide with spring cleanup efforts going forward, as well as a fall cleanup day each year.

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