Volunteers turn out to clean up the streets

LA CRESCENTA — Residents of all ages spanned Foothill Boulevard Saturday morning picking up cigarettes and pulling weeds as part of community clean up day.

“It’s dirty work, but if it helps the environment, then it’s worth it,” said 14-year-old Hailey James, who, with several friends from her Girl Scout troop, filled trash bags with cigarette butts and other litter.

The event was one of several community beautification efforts that more than 200 volunteers took part in for the 16th annual Foothill Community Clean Up, in conjunction with national Make A Difference Day.

Make a Difference Day is an annual event sponsored by USA Weekend and the Points of Light Foundation to encourage local neighborhood service projects. Last year, more than 3 million people participated across the country, according to the foundation.

In Burbank, volunteers stood in front of six grocery stores to collect canned goods to donate to the Burbank Salvation Army, Family Service Agency of Burbank and the Burbank Temporary Aid Center.

“We’ve only been out here for an hour-and-a-half and we already have two-and-a-half carts full of food,” said Burroughs High School freshman Flannery Weiss as she stood outside the Albertsons on Verdugo Road.

Hank Diel, a member of the Burbank Civic Pride Committee who helped organized the food drive, said the donations were especially important amid the protracted recession.

“The economy is down, but we are doing better than expected,” he said.

Back in the Crescenta Valley, other beautification efforts included pulling weeds and scattering poppy seeds on three different strips of land.

“Maybe in the spring, we’ll have poppies instead of weeds,” said Sandra Rodriguez, a program coordinator for Glendale Neighborhood Services, which helped organize and sponsor the event.

The Committee for a Clean & Beautiful Glendale and the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce also sponsored the work day.

Picking up cigarette butts is especially important to keep them from going down storm drains and to the Pacific ocean, officials said.

After the clean-up, Hailey and her friends met up with the other volunteers for a pizza party at Dunsmore Park.

“Hailey really got into it,” Christine joked, pointing to smudges of dirt on her friend’s face.

Christine said she was amazed by the sheer amount they found along the street.

“There were tons of cigarette butts,” she said.

Volunteers also filled sandbags for residents preparing against potential mudflows in the foothills this winter. By noon, hundreds of sandbags were stacked at Dunsmore Park.

NOTE: This story amends an earlier version that stated there were more than 20 volunteers, when in fact there were more than 200.

 MELANIE HICKEN covers City Hall. She may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at melanie.hicken@latimes.com.

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