I find it easy to become discouraged about the numerous assaults on our environment and the subsequent feeling of helplessness to effect change. That is why I want to shout from the rooftops about my recent experience working with volunteers on a clean-up of Chartiers Creek.
The event was organized by Melissa and David Rohm, who just last year created Paddle Without Pollution. Their mission is “to restore and protect the health of the rivers, streams, lake and wetlands of Pennsylvania through hands-on stewardship and education.”
When I asked about the birth of their idea, Melissa explained, “David and I are always picking up litter, unfortunately. We've done the International Coastal Cleanup for years and various other local cleanups ... it was our first time on the Mon last July and we couldn't believe how much litter there was. I off-handedly said that we should do a cleanup and then a week later, David announced that we were now a nonprofit called Paddle Without Pollution and we were going to have a big cleanup of all three rivers. Well, that mushroomed into over three dozen volunteers in boats launching from three points and collecting more than 73 bags of trash.”
The cold, rainy weather on the Saturday of the Chartiers Creek clean-up did nothing to deter the 30 some volunteers of all ages, one of whom came from the other side of town, and even a black lab named Jinx. Of course there was a crew that worked from canoes and kayaks, but there was more than enough garbage on the banks of the creek and in the surrounding woods to keep the ground crew busy as well.
As can be seen from the pictures, we collected many bags of garbage, tires, a plastic child’s pool and even a microwave that had to be forced out of it’s makeshift grave.
Throughout the day, I felt the euphoria of working along with other people trying to make a difference, and only a couple of times marveled at the enormity of the task. But the feeling I came away with was entirely positive. Seeing the resolve of the volunteers that never wavered through the cold and rain was an amazing experience.
Paddle Without Pollution is a perfect example of what can be accomplished when combining one’s passion with a refusal to accept the status quo. Kudos to David and Melissa!