Rowan Helping Ministries brings back neighborhood cleanup

Published 12:10 am Sunday, September 4, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

SALISBURY — On Friday mornings, Rowan Helping Ministry guests can be seen walking around the property wearing yellow safety vests and black gloves and carrying trash grabbers and plastic bags.

Priscilla Gamez, one of the guests, describes herself as a clean freak. Along with volunteering for the Friday cleanups, she cleans the outdoor smoking area three times a day.

“I got tired of seeing it,” she said. She does it so often that the people who smoke out there know to either help clean up or get out of the way when they see her coming.

Gamez said while she is staying at the shelter, she might as well help keep it clean.

Rowan Helping Ministries has restarted organizing shelter guests to clean up the property as part of its New Tomorrows Program.

Jeanne LeMaster, education and transitional manager, said she does not know when or why the cleanup efforts stopped, but she saw the need to start it up again.

Shelter guests are asked to volunteer once a month to pick up trash left around the facilities. They split up into groups to cover the shelter parking lot, the Cheerwine parking lot, the Crisis Assistance Network parking lot, the Crisis Assistance Network’s side of Liberty Street and the hill between Council Street and the parking lot.

Ten people went out to clean up the area on Friday. The city donated the supplies they used.

The cleanup days are part of Rowan Helping Ministries’ New Tomorrows Program, which provides guests with opportunities to learn about life skills they can use when they leave the shelter, like anger management, health and employability classes.

LeMaster said she is trying to increase growth with the Friday cleanups.

“The guests are really great about pitching in and helping,” she said.

Guests could also help the Rowan County Extension Master Gardeners plant flowers, which is what Gamez did.

Gamez said the New Tomorrows Program has been helping her “little by little.” She has enjoyed being at the shelter and interacting with the staff.

“I like helping out the staff and I do it because I want to,” she said.

Stacey Byrd was another guest using a trash grabber to remove trash left around the property. He said he was not scheduled to volunteer that day, but he volunteered anyways.

“I figure if I keep myself busy I can keep myself out of trouble,” he said with a laugh.

Byrd said the guests have other chores they have to do while they stay, but he doesn’t mind. He would have to perform chores and keep his own house clean, so it doesn’t bother him to have to do it for his temporary home.

He said volunteering to pick up trash was a way to give back to Rowan Helping Ministries for providing food and shelter.

“It’s a nice trade-off,” he said.

LeMaster said she tries to take the volunteers out to celebrate a job well done. They went to Wendy’s last Friday for Frostys.

“I’ve noticed a huge difference in the cleanliness of the property,” LeMaster said.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.