LEMON GROVE, Calif. — A group of volunteers in Lemon Grove is making a difference in their community one piece of litter at a time. The Lemon Grove Improvement Council cleans roadside trash along a one-mile stretch of SR-94.
“It feels awesome; it feels really good to be a part of something that we want to be the change that we want to see,” said volunteer Chris Williams. “To go by and drive by and see trash, and then a group of people comes together to clean it up, there’s no better feeling.”
For the past year-and-a-half, a group of passionate volunteers has been taking matters into their own hands as part of the Adopt-a-Highway program by Caltrans.
“Nobody is coming to save us, we have to save ourselves, and we do that by coming together as a community. We do that by coming together as groups, to make an impact, to make a difference,” said Williams. “We got to roll up our sleeves, get a little bit dirty, create some action, and be the change we want to see.”
Last year, they picked up 237 bags of trash from numerous on and off-ramps in the area, including College Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, and High Street. On Tuesday, Caltrans awarded their efforts for picking up the most litter in 2022 throughout District 11.
The first thing you see when you get on the freeway is the entrance ramp,” said Shawn Rizzutto, Division Chief for Maintenance in Caltrans District 11. “So having that be clean, neat, and manicured improves the driving experience and community pride."
Each group in the Adopt-a-Highway program is eligible for a monthly stipend, ranging from $125-$250, as part of the CLEAN California initiative. Williams and the other volunteers in Lemon Grove have been saving theirs to help the city reopen the recreation center.
“The rec center’s been closed for about twelve years to the general public to be rented out for private events and parties, but not for really what rec centers are best for, which is providing a safe space, a place for these kids and the community to come together, meet their friends, meet their neighbors,” said Williams.
The group has saved $3,500 dollars so far, and other fundraising efforts have brought in another $4,000. They plan to apply for grant money and look for business sponsorships to supplement their efforts to reopen the Lemon Grove Recreation Center.
“Community is so important, you know, you can’t spell community without unity,” said Williams. “You need people to come together like what we’re doing, to make sure that communities like Lemon Grove get what they’re getting, you know, north of the 8.”
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