Nutter calls for community cleanup

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She stands about thigh-high to the city's leader, but Destiny Hill made her point just as emphatically: Let's clean up Philadelphia.

"All year, my friends and I have been picking up trash with our after-school program," the first grader at the Henry C. Lea Elementary School in University City said as she introduced Mayor Nutter at a news conference yesterday in LOVE Park.

Her braided hair set off by shiny gold clips, Destiny then went straight to the meat of her speech and drew cheers from the roughly 200 people assembled: "I have learned that there is trash to be picked up. Please help me and my friends clean our city. Thank you."

With that, Nutter took to the stage to enlist help for "the largest city cleanup Philadelphia has ever seen."

Joined by volunteers, community activists and a few city officials, Nutter set the time and date for the citywide effort: from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 5.

He said that during his campaign for mayor he noticed that "far too many areas of our city are filthy and unacceptable."

The single-day effort, he said, aims to enlist 10,000 volunteers to remove one million pounds of debris from 5,000 city blocks.

"With a clean city, the citizens are also saying something about themselves and what we think of our own neighborhoods," he said.

Nutter said the project would be held throughout the city and would help boost community pride in many neighborhoods where litter and debris have been tolerated for far too long.

He urged residents to "sweep your steps. Take care of your sidewalks, pull it all together, and have a sense of community that we're looking out for each other."

The rally featured a marching band from the Girard Academic Music Program and dozens of young adults from the City Year volunteer service corps.

"If you don't think you need clean streets, think about those children right over there," Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson told the gathering. "They need clean streets. We want these kids to grow up in Philadelphia in a way in which they are proud of where they live."

Pearl Jonas, 24, a City Year volunteer, said she coordinates a Saturday service-learning program for 150 middle-school students. Nutter was giving young people an opportunity to serve and "witness the power of volunteerism to transform our communities," she said.

"The challenge with litter is having a constant reminder that keeping the city clean is everyone's responsibility," Nutter said.

The mayor also vowed stricter enforcement of anti-littering laws.

Nutter said one goal of the cleanup was to work "to change some of the mindset and culture in Philadelphia about throwing that bag out of your car window."

To learn more about the project, go to www.phillycleanup.com or call 215-683-CLEAN.


Contact staff writer Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com.