Amy DeFeo, manager at the California Apartments in Absecon, and many of her residents often pass the fishing bridge on Route 9 in Absecon and find themselves disgusted by the refuse scattered around it. On Oct. 10, they did something about it.
DeFeo and five others trekked from the complex to the bridge, armed with bags, grabbers and gloves. DeFeo said she was astounded at the type and volume of debris she and the others found during the cleanup.
"Propane tanks, telephones," DeFeo said. "We've dragged all kinds of stuff up here, tires. It's unbelievable what people dump."
All told, the group filled eight bags of bottles and cans and 17 trash bags during the cleanup, which lasted about three hours.
The trip was one of a few DeFeo has organized for her residents in the past year. Others have included cleanups of California Avenue, which runs alongside the apartment complex, and a few bus stops around the area. DeFeo said she began the effort because of an interest her residents had expressed in helping to beautify their community.
"We're fanatics about how we keep our own complex, and we just wanted other apartment complexes, hopefully, to follow suit and people in the community to just remember to put it in the trash can, not on the street," DeFeo said.
DeFeo also enlisted the aid of community members not affiliated with the California Apartments in the effort. Marlon Hargis, whom DeFeo met at a past cleanup, was one of those who joined in the effort.
Hargis, an Absecon resident, founded the nonprofit Your Choice, the People's Choice two years ago with his friend Alton Thompson after the pair, fed up with the state of the stretch of Route 30 around the Atlantic City area, decided to clean it up. He said the responsibility of keeping a community litter-free falls on the shoulders of those who live in it.
"Not only is it just unsightly, but like I said, more importantly this stuff has a terrible adverse effect on our personal health and the environment," Hargis said. "If we're not going to clean it up, don't think the rabbits and the squirrels are going to do it for us, because it ain't happening."
In addition to its work with the California Apartments, Hargis' nonprofit has coordinated with ACUA and local schools to clean up the community.
California Apartments resident Tess Nelson also pitched in at the cleanup. She said she had spoken with DeFeo before about helping out, but because she works three jobs, was not able to fit the others in her busy schedule.
"I never did it before, and I figured, why not try it, it's a good thing, it's where you live, you have to take care of it," Nelson said. "I never realized how much garbage was here.
"I used to bike ride up here, and I used to see a bunch of stuff on the side of the road, and now I see even more."
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