An area behind Crossroads Missionary Baptist Church in Gary, cleared of debris and plants, was one of a number of sites cleaned during this year's Gary Cleanup event on Saturday, September 17, 2022. (Kyle Telechan for the Post-Tribune)
An area behind Crossroads Missionary Baptist Church in Gary, cleared of debris and plants, was one of a number of sites cleaned during this year's Gary Cleanup event on Saturday, September 17, 2022. (Kyle Telechan for the Post-Tribune)
Heavy duty trucks lined Massachusetts Street and filled the parking lot of the Hudson Campbell Sports and Fitness Center as people gathered next door, outside of Gary City Hall, for the city’s third All In cleanup effort.

Volunteers and city workers donned bright gold and black T-shirts proclaiming All In Gary as they gathered to get their cleaning supplies before heading off. The atmosphere was festive Friday morning with music pumping in the background and people socializing and posing for pictures before the kick-off of the two-day cleanup event.

Rachelle Morgan Ceasar, executive director of constituent services, said participation in the clean up effort continues to grow. This year more than 40 groups, clubs, businesses and churches signed up to participate in the Saturday clean-up efforts, the largest group of volunteers yet.

A number of businesses also have signed up to support the effort including Indiana American Water and Great Lakes Industrial, both of which have participated in all three events. The city also partnered with the Lake County Commissioners’ office, who used members of its staff Thursday to clean up areas in West Glen Park.

Deputy Mayor Trent McCain said the All In cleanups began in response to a national clean up effort in 2021 and has grown since.

“Once folks sit with their neighbors, coworkers and friends, they took pride in our city,” McCain said. He encouraged anyone who sees illegal dumping or littering to report it to help maintain the efforts of city workers and volunteers.

“Gary is not a dump. This is a lovely place to live. This is a lovely place to raise a family,” McCain said.

The deputy mayor said he does believe the efforts are making a difference. He said the majority of the areas that are tackled during the clean ups remain cleared, though some areas still struggle with illegal dumping.

“When folks take special ownership of a particular street or piece of land, they are inspired to keep it clean,” McCain said.

Good Will employees John Trotter, Ray Green and Ja’Liza Prophet, who all live and work in Gary, were among the volunteers Friday. The group was headed to its Good Will property on Ridge Road to work.

“It feels pretty good to have an opportunity to come out and network with other organizations and work together to clean up our city,” Prophet said, adding the agency services clients throughout Gary.

“We are letting the communities we serve know we do care as people and as employees,” Prophet said.

Trotter said it is nice to be part of an organization that serves the community at large.

“It’s nice to be with other organizations in the city,” Trotter said.

Green said he has been a lifelong resident of the city. He said he could have relocated but the city is home and he’s happy to help.

“I love Gary,” Green said.

Before sending off the volunteers with the rallying cry “Let’s get to work!”, Morgan Ceaser took time to thank the volunteers and she also gave a shout-out to the employees of the city’s general services and recycling departments.

“These are the men and women that are out there doing it every day,” she said.

Willie Hickman was one of the general services employees on hand Friday. Hickman and the group he was working with were taxed with mowing Gleason Park. He said it was wonderful to see people come out and participate in the cleanup and wished “the whole city in general” would get involved.

He urged residents to help clean up their neighborhoods because the department just cannot get to every site that needs to be cleaned up.

“We try to do the best we can,” Hickman said. “I wish we all could come out and participate like this.”

Volunteer Nick Vasil of Gary showed up ready to help help Friday. Vasil is a life-long Gary resident and said he has participated over the years in prior clean-up efforts. This was his first time participating in the All In cleanup.

Vasil said he appreciates the cleanup efforts and would like to see more efforts made by the city and its residents to keep it clean after events like this.

“I feel good about this. It’s a unifying effort,” Vasil said, adding he would like to see the younger generation more involved.

“It’s a good example for the next generation to take over and have respect for our city,” Vasil said.
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