HAMMONTON - Everyone likes to put their best foot forward and towns are no exception, which is why Hammonton held its annual Community Cleanup and Downtown Planting on Saturday morning.

“It has been over 10 years Mainstreet has done a cleanup and about four years for planting flowers,” said Cassie Iacovelli, executive director of MainStreet Hammonton.

There were many people and organizations that contributed to the occasion. Mainstreet Hammonton organized the event, along with the Hammonton Green Committee. The Atlantic County Utilities Authority sponsored the cleanup, while the Lions Club, Exchange Club and Rotary Club all donated the flowers.

“Without them I would not have had any money to buy the flowers,” said Iacovelli.

Volunteers gathered at the Historic Train Station to prepare for the job ahead. Their first job, however, was to choose whether they were going to be part of the cleanup crew or the flower planting crew. Once that was decided, everyone then grabbed their free T-shirts provided by the ACUA. Those who chose to pick up trash then grabbed their picker tool, while flower planting volunteers grabbed the essential gardening tools.

While there were many familiar faces, there also were plenty of new ones.

First time cleanup volunteers Paul and Johnna Gross heard about the event through their church — Victory Bible Church.

“It’s our first time volunteering but not the church’s,” said Paul Gross. The Gross family was happy to be helping the community and they had the necessary tools for the cleanup.

“We have our pickers,” chuckled Johnna Gross.

Many members of Victory Bible Church came out to help and all appeared to share Pastor Anthony Parise’s feelings about helping the community.

“We are part of the community and as a church we feel it is important to participate,” said Parise. He volunteered to plant flowers, perhaps in no small part to how he feels the Lord is working through his church.

“This is where the Lord has planted us,” the pastor said.

After breaking down into groups, volunteers spread across the downtown, focusing on their given section.

Taylor Breitzman and Olivia Craig, both 18 and students at Saint Joseph High School, immediately set to work planting flowers along Bellevue Avenue. The two also are members of the school’s Interact Club.

“We have done it since our freshman year,” said Breitzman about how long they have been volunteering for the community cleanup. “They do so much for us; we thought we should give back” said Craig.

Over the course of several hours and as the heat of the day built, volunteers picked up dozens of large garbage bags worth of trash and planted hundreds of flowers across the downtown. The sweat and muscle will pay dividends in the months ahead as residents and visitors to Hammonton enjoy another year of a clean and beautiful community.

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