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Churches meet annual cleanup challenge

Ten Suffolk churches helped keep Suffolk beautiful this fall with an organized effort to get congregations involved in litter cleanups.

Keep Suffolk Beautiful organized the Church Cleanup Challenge, which launched in September and lasted through Nov. 18. Ten churches helped coordinate a dozen cleanups during those eight weeks, according to a city press release. This amounted to 141 total volunteers with support from their respective churches.

“We started this fall challenge last year knowing that churches are leaders in the community,” Keep Suffolk Beautiful Chairwoman Kathy Russell stated in the press release. “We thought they would make a strong partner for environmental stewardship in the fight against litter.”

This fall was another fruitful season for promoting environmental stewardship thanks to Balm Church East Campus, Perfecting Saints COGIC, Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, Covenant Community Church, Oakland Christian Church, St. Paul’s Baptist Church, Family Harvest Church, Bethlehem Christian Church, Trinity Christian Church and St. Paul Reformed Zion.

“They helped make our city a cleaner place to live, work, play and pray,” Russell stated.

According to Suffolk Litter Control Coordinator Wayne Jones, Balm Church gathered about 50 people to tackle garbage on East Washington Street. St. Paul’s Baptist and Bethlehem Christian volunteers teamed up in the Boston-Williamstown neighborhood off West Constance Road, and Covenant Community Church volunteers scoured Broad Street that same day.

Jones said it was roughly the same number of churches that participated last year, and the hope is to get more and more volunteers each year.

“We’re planning on doing it again next year, and hopefully we’ll get more signed up,” he said.

The Rev. Ed Lilley, director of Christian education and youth for Oakland Christian United Church of Christ, cleaned up Audubon Road behind Oakland Elementary School in early October with about a half-dozen other volunteers from the church.

It was the second year that Oakland Christian UCC members participated in the challenge. Lilley said it’s important for church members to give back to their local community first and foremost, and they always have fun doing it, whistling like the seven dwarves in Snow White.

“My mom made me do that while we were doing chores (growing up),” Lilley said, laughing.

Lilley has joined cleanups in numerous places over the years, from Baltimore to South America. He said that service work leaves a deep, lasting and positive impression for all those involved.

“Service work adds a depth of narrative to an individual’s life, and it affects other individuals’ quality of life (as well). It’s (about) more than the environment. It’s the community,” he said.