Volunteers clean up the city together

Armed with shovels, rakes, picks, trash bags and gloves, 600 volunteers dispersed across Glendale to help beautify the city Saturday.

Residents from Glendale and neighboring communities painted out graffiti, cleaned up dilapidated lawns and even made a school teacher’s dream for a school garden come true.

A part of the city’s 23rd annual Great American Cleanup event, before participants even got their hands dirty, Glendale was already doing its part to minimize the waste produced by the event.

During the provided breakfast and lunch times, volunteers were asked to separate their trash into four bins and divide the food from the plates and the plates from the plastic.

“People are getting used to it,” said Neighborhood Services legal secretary Kerri Zelenak. “I think most people who come to these events are great and really conscientious about their waste and the environment.”

Sandra Rodriguez, Glendale’s program coordinator for the event, expected a bit of a learning curve after people finished their meals.

“With four different types of containers, we know it can be kind of intimidating,” Rodriguez said. “We’re explaining why we’re doing this so the participants learn why it’s important.”

“Ideally they’re really going to give it some thought at home,” she added. “Maybe even start composting at home.”

The event was held in conjunction with similar events across the country through the national profit Keep America Beautiful. Nationwide, nearly 4 million volunteers are expected to take part in community cleanup events from March through May.

Burbank resident Warren Hall, who was busy raking up debris at a property in violation of code in the 400 block of South Verdugo Road, showed up because he felt like helping.

A mile away at Woodrow Wilson Middle School, sixth-grade math and science teacher Elizabeth Bitow watched her dream of starting a school garden come true before her eyes.

“I think it’s very important for students to have a real garden,” Bitow said. “They need to understand where their food comes from.”

The longtime Glendale Unified School District teacher had been surveying the campus for four years and just recently found the perfect spot.

“It’s always been one of my big dreams,” Bitow said. “And when I mentioned it to [Rodriguez] she said the city can make it happen and even gave me an exact date.”

Bitow’s hard work paid off, and the experience may have inspired one of the younger volunteers on hand.

“We tried starting a garden before, but it didn’t work out,” said 13-year-old Joshua Sanders of Pasadena. “I’d definitely like to start one at my school though.”

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