To give back to their community during Martin Luther King Jr. Day, youth from Casa de Belen and members of the community joined Umpqua Watersheds for its first MLK River Cleanup Service Day on Monday.
After the high-water events during the recent winter storms, debris had washed up on the banks of the South Umpqua River that flows through Roseburg.
The clean-up effort drew 30 to 40 participants. They gathered at Gaddis Park in Roseburg before spreading out to pick up soggy plastic bags, metal cans, food wrappers and other trash out of the dirt and brambles in Gaddis, Deer Creek and Micelli parks.
Chris Hume, 15, and Nina Atkisson, 18, of Casa de Belen began by picking up litter near the water’s edge at Gaddis Park.
“It’s a national service day so we came to help out,” Hume said. “It’s a great thing they’re doing out here.”
Hume said it was a beautiful day outside and he wanted to help keep the river safe for the fish.
“We just want to help the community out,” Atkisson added.
Nearby, Isadora Johnson, 13, held open a trash bag while Olivia Moore-Walker, 10, filled it with litter. They also came out with Casa de Belen to help the community and clean up the riverbanks “so animals don’t die,” Johnson said.
Casa de Belen Case Manager Kaytee Meagher said the agency for transitional housing for homeless youth provides opportunities to keep the kids active during their days off from school, like MLK Day.
“The community gives so much to us and we want to instill that in our own lives, especially for the kids to experience how they can give back to our community,” Meagher said.
Several community members decided to volunteer as well, including Allen Huffstutter, 68, of Roseburg.
“It just seemed like a good thing to do,” Huffstutter said. “We try to spend time by the river and some people don’t take care of it very well, so we’re cleaning up what they should’ve cleaned up.”
Alan Bunce, the executive director of Umpqua Watersheds, said AmeriCorps does something every year to honor Martin Luther King’s volunteer and community service efforts. Bailey Stein, UW’s AmeriCorps environmental education and outreach coordinator, said she and Bunce had wanted to do a river cleanup day, so it fit really well for her AmeriCorps service day.
“We’re really happy with the turnout and weather and we’re glad we had the chance to help clean up the river,” Klein said Monday morning as the clouds began to subside, allowing the sun to break through. She added she was glad the kids from Casa de Belen and the other community members could come out to help.
SOLVE, Roseburg Parks & Recreation, Roseburg Disposal, Canoa Sport and Jackson St. Coffee also helped sponsor the event.