EAST CHICAGO | A movement began in the city a year ago to do one simple thing — clean up neighborhoods one block at a time.
During the year that effort has turned into a vision and a mission of Mayor Anthony Copeland called Community Clean-Up. On Tuesday about 75 community members, business people and East Chicago employees took to the streets, picking up trash and getting rid of weeds in the Indiana Harbor area.
Many sported green and yellow shirts that symbolize the cleanup movement as they gathered in a vacant lot at Broadway and Main Street.
“When I was walking here, I saw an ocean of green shirts. I felt it in my heart. This is the beginning of taking ownership and pride in our city,” said Copeland, who donned his work gloves and participated alongside volunteers to spruce up the neighborhood.
The program “seeks to pull the community together into cleaning up the area. It’s a holistic approach,” he said.
“The first impression someone has coming into a city is a lasting one. Even if you’re cash-strapped, you don’t have to have dirt,” Copeland said. “This cleanup will be carried throughout the city every weekend from early spring to late fall.”
The city of East Chicago was established more than 120 years ago, he said.
“Old doesn’t mean it has to be dirty,” Copeland told those gathered to work. “It once had a vibrant downtown, where citizens could shop, eat and enjoy time with their families while supporting local businesses. We need to bring that back to our city.”
In addition to employees of the East Chicago Public Works Department, staff from East Chicago City Judge Sonya Morris’s office and workers provided by North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan spread out to participate in the effort.
The cleanup of multiple blocks along Broadway and Main Street also served as the kickoff for The Harbor Project announced by Copeland.
A citywide revitalization plan, The Harbor Project is designed to identify renovations, new construction and opportunities for long-term economic development, Copeland said, adding that the overall goal is to enhance the market potential for public and private sectors of East Chicago.
Restoring historical facades, creating partnerships, investment in the city and “re-establishing the economic engine of the downtown area” are among the ways to meet the goals of The Harbor Project, the mayor said.
“It’s going to take all of us,” Copeland said. “It takes a village to keep the village clean.”