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United Way of Lancaster County


‘Neighborhood Champions’ sought for SoWe trash pickup program

Volunteers pick up trash in the SoWe neighborhood as part of a Lancaster city “River Connections” project in October 2022. (Source: SoWe)

A regional environmental nonprofit is launching a pilot program to conduct paid monthly trash cleanups along the streets and sidewalks in in Lancaster’s SoWe neighborhood.

Created by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, “SoWe Project Clean Stream” is slated to run from April through September. To lead it, the alliance is seeking “Neighborhood Champions” to recruit teams of volunteers and coordinate monthly neighborhood trash cleanups.

The alliance is looking for five Champions in all, who would be paid stipends of $25.50 an hour for four hours a month over the project period, Projects Coordinator Cathleen Anthony said.

The alliance provides necessary supplies, such as trash bags and gloves.

For more information

To learn about the trash cleanup initiative in SoWe or to sign up, email Cathleen Anthony at Include your name and street address.

There are two upcoming orientation events, as follows:

  • 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 20: Tec Centro West, 57 Laurel St.
  • 3 p.m. Sunday, April 14: 285 Conestoga St. (near the composting bin on the south side of Culliton Park / Conlin Field).

The SoWe initiative is the latest expansion of the alliance’s Project Clean Stream program, which organizes cleanups throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The alliance is hoping eventually to expand to other neighborhoods; in SoWe, it will have a chance to see what does and doesn’t work in Lancaster, Anthony said.

The Lancaster Clean Water Fund is providing a $12,000 grant to cover the cost. Roughly a quarter of that will go toward the stipends. Other expenses include community education, administration and documentation: Project Clean Streams tracks volumes of trash collected and collects detailed feedback from participants.

The alliance had worked with SoWe previously, so it made sense to start there, Anthony said. When it comes time to expand, it anticipates reaching out to other neighborhood groups and the city’s Department of Neighborhood Engagement.

Clean streets and sidewalks contribute to watershed health by reducing the amount of contamination that enters the Chesapeake Bay through Lancaster’s sewer system. Lancaster treats sewer effluent before discharging it into the Conestoga Bay, but large storms overwhelm its treatment capacity on a regular basis.

Cleanup projects also promote environmental awareness and give participants a sense of personal investment in their neighborhood and its upkeep, the alliance says.

(Source: SoWe)

Maintaining and beautifying streets and parks is one of SoWe’s top priorities, spokeswoman Jackie Morges said, and the organization is excited about Project Clean Stream coming to the neighborhood.

“We know that our SoWe neighbors deeply care about the state of our neighborhood and are personally invested in seeing their street trash-free,” she said. Many make the effort to pick up around their block, but it’s a daunting task for individuals to take on without community support.

Project Clean Stream has the potential to deepen friendships among neighbors, discourage littering and promote accountability, she said.

Last fall, SoWe began providing support to Dave Costarella’s Hands Up Partners for cleanups in and around Culliton Park and Brandon Park. The cleaners are homeless individuals, who receive $20 stipends for their work.

Project Clean Stream would focus on other parts of the neighborhood; SoWe anticipates it being a great complement to Hands Up Partners, Morges said.

Campbell said she hopes it can be arranged for the participants from the two cleanup initiatives, and others in the area, to meet up eventually.

It’s great when you put volunteers together, she said, “because of how much information is shared and how much camaraderie you get.”