Cleaning our way down Foothill Boulevard to combat littering

How the community came together to clean the streets of La Crescenta


Rosemont’s Builder’s Club getting ready to clean up the street.

250 million tons — that’s how much trash is produced in the United States annually, and a majority of it is found as litter on the very streets we walk upon.

Since nearly 75 percent of Americans have admitted to continual littering, it’s apparent that doing something to reduce the amount of trash on our streets is necessary. With this is mind, I, along with nearly 50 other members of the La Crescenta and Glendale communities, participated in the 22nd annual Foothill Clean-Up Day on Saturday, March 31. Though this three-hour event typically takes place in October, it got rescheduled this year due to rainy weather.

Once March 31 came, I drove down to Bob Smith Toyota, which was where sign-ins took place. The first person I was introduced to was Amy Taylor, the program specialist for the non-profit organization Glendale Clean and Beautiful. Glendale Clean and Beautiful is actually an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful which hosts the Great American Cleanup. This event is the nation’s largest community improvement program which takes place annually in an estimated 20,000 communities nationwide and has nearly 5 million volunteers and participants. In 2017, almost 186 million pounds of litter and debris were collected on this cleanup day.

Taylor gave me a brief synopsis of how the next three hours would unfold and pointed me towards the complimentary breakfast. She also asked if I had my volunteer forms so that I could receive community service hours from participating. “Many of the students that participate come from Crescenta Valley and do it both for the experience and for the hours,” Taylor said.

As breakfast was being served, many volunteers showed up. Most volunteers were students from Rosemont Middle School and Crescenta Valley High School. I met a few students as I ate my complementary bagel and had my coffee. Once it was 9:30 a.m., the leader of the event and retired City Administrator of Glendale, Sam Engel, explained how we would divide into four groups and would each get a designated section of Foothill Boulevard that we would clean.

Each group would also get a basket of cleaning tools such as rakes, grabbers, brooms, gardening snippers and trash bags. Engel demonstrated how to properly use each tool and emphasized the importance of wearing gloves and staying hydrated. Once we divided into four groups, I met my group leader, whose name was Bob Catch. Catch handed me a water bottle and asked if I had any questions.

I was grouped with six Rosemont students who were from the school’s Builder’s Club, which is an organization to help middle school students become leaders through volunteerism. Though I was shy at first, I began to get to know the students as we walked towards our section of the street. Catch led us to our area which was the region of Foothill Boulevard that went from New York Avenue all the way to Ramsdell Avenue.

Holding the trash bag while Rosemont student, Connor, throws trash into it.

All of us got to pick our cleaning tool of choice, but it was clear that the trash grabber was the most popular. At first, I was in charge of both holding the trash bag and using a grabber to pick up trash, but after about five minutes, I learned that holding the trash bag was enough since I had to make sure to stay in the middle of my group at all times. Common items we found were food wrappers and cans.

However, the item we found the most of which shocked all of us was cigarette butts. For practically every step we took, we picked up a cigarette butt. A seventh grader named Connor from the Builder’s Club said that he was really surprised by the amount of butts we found. “I don’t get why there are so many on the streets if it’s banned to smoke on our streets,” Connor said. As we picked up more trash, my 13-gallon trash bag began to get really heavy. Catch told me to tie up the bag and leave it at the end of the side walk when we reached the Pennsylvania Avenue intersection.

During this process, we were not only looking for trash to pick up, but we were also looking for Easter eggs. Since Easter was only a day away, Taylor told all of the groups to find as many eggs as we could. Knowing that there might be eggs in between bushes and trees made our group look even harder and clean even more than we would have if we weren’t on this egg hunt. Eventually, we found our first Easter egg, but were disappointed to see that it had an emoji tattoo inside it. Hoping for one with candy, we continued down towards Ramsdell.

Cleaning up every but of trash we could, we finally reached the end of our route and turned around. We ended up filling two 13-gallon bags and were simply in amazement as we walked back towards Bob Smith Toyota. Looking at the street after the clean-up, we couldn’t find one bit of trash. The street seemed so much cleaner and nicer to walk upon after our work. Tired and exhausted, we returned to find that the breakfast table had been replaced with lunch foods. We had sandwiches and cookies while we congratulated one another on how much we accomplished in just a few hours.

Bob Catch, my group leader, walking us towards our section of Foothill Blvd.

During lunch, I had the opportunity to individually speak with Engel and thank him for the experience. Engel said that his favorite part of the event is how the community gets together and works on the same project together. “You guys being out here doing this with your friends and meeting other people doing the same thing is really important to me,” Engel said.