BRIGANTINE — Dozens of volunteers turned out on the last Saturday of summer, Sept. 21, to assist with a beach cleanup organized by Brigantine Clean Communities and the city's Department of Public Works.
Brigantine Clean Communities is part of the state's Clean Communities Council, which oversees litter-abatement programs in all 21 New Jersey counties. The Brigantine branch was spearheaded by the late Pat Campitelli, whose son, Joe Campitelli, has been the program's volunteer chairman since his father died in 2005.
The event was tied into the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., and its International Coastal Cleanup Day, a global effort established in Texas in 1986 to help preserve and protect the world's oceans and beaches.
Event volunteers included members of Brigantine civic organizations such as the Lions Club, Sons of Italy, True Spirit Coalition and Municipal Alliance, and the Navy Junior ROTC program in Barnegat. The Brigantine Department of Public Works also operated a commercial shredding truck to assist residents in disposing of sensitive documents free of charge.
“I couldn't be more honored to be your county executive when I look at this,” said Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, addressing the sizable crowd before the beach cleanup began. “Thank you so very much for caring about our environment and for caring about our future.”
Levinson took part in a pre-cleanup awards ceremony on the 16th Street and Ocean Avenue parking lot. Honored for their longstanding contributions to the Clean Communities program were former Brigantine Mayor Phil Guenther, and Bill Mayer Jr., whose family business, Clam Daddy's, raises clams in an environmentally friendly hatchery in Brigantine's bays.
Also honored were two dynamic supporters of Brigantine Clean Communities who died in 2019 — Tom Milhous, president of the Brigantine Lions Club from 2016 until his death on Aug. 8, and Bill Hopf, who championed the Brigantine Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
Hopf, who died Feb. 8, was posthumously presented the Clean Communities Lighthouse Award, which his wife of 60 years, Alice, accepted on his behalf. Annamaria Milhous, Tom's wife of 51 years, accepted his award from Mayor Andy Simpson.
“Tom Milhous was instrumental in helping Brigantine Clean Communities get its tote-bag program started,” Campitelli said.
The tote-bag program has been significant in helping generate interest in Clean Communities' mission, which includes the promotion of reuse and recycling, Campitelli said.
“Without Tom, this program would not have been nearly as successful as it's been,” he said.
Levinson said Atlantic County has consistently been ranked the greenest county in the state by a study conducted at Kean University.
“That's something we're really, really proud about,” he said.
Guenther enlisted beach-cleanup help from several students in the Atlantic County Vocational School District, where he is the superintendent.
“Thank you to everyone who came out this morning,” Guenther said. “Without the great volunteers that we have each and every year, and the legacy that was started with Joe's father, Pat Campitelli, Brigantine wouldn't be as clean and as environmentally conscious as we are.”