Collaboration” was the message of the day at the Third Annual Mayors’ 49th Street Cleanup and Chiefs’ Chat on Saturday, October 1. Volunteers met at the Tangerine Greenway at the corner of Tangerine Ave. and 49th St. for registration, supplies and the Mayors’ Welcome before heading off in designated groups to clean up the 49th Street Corridor that joins the cities of Gulfport and St. Petersburg. Volunteers came from area organizations and groups from both cities including Bridgepoint Church, Gulfport Neighbors, Adopt A Block, Gulfport Teen Council, Gulfport Police Explorers, Bay Care St. Anthony’s Hospital and the St. Petersburg Summer Youth Intern Program.
“We’re so thrilled that you’re here,” said Margaret Tober of Gulfport Neighbors, a sponsor of the event, in her welcome. She also announced the winner of the “most unusual item” to be picked in the cleanup would be posted on the Mayors’ Cleanup and Gulfport Neighbors Facebook pages.
Laura Henderson, wife of Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson, sang the national anthem before Henderson and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman addressed the audience.
“Thank you for getting up early. I am very grateful for the people of Gulfport and St. Pete who are here,” said Henderson. “Some people said we shouldn’t do this, but this is the way to get past the problems by working together. Let’s have a little fun and clean up the street today.”
Mayor Kriseman also stressed the importance of community, saying, “We are working together collaboratively and that’s how we change things.”
The teams collected 800 pounds of trash and recyclables in less than two hours from 49th Street and the adjacent alleys. Some of the items found included a hairpiece, a nipple from a baby bottle, car parts and a tire.
A large crowd stayed for the Chiefs’ Chat that began at 10:30 a.m. with Gulfport Chief of Police Rob Vincent and St. Petersburg Chief of Police Tony Holloway. Those attending ranged in age from teenagers to longtime St. Petersburg activist Winnie Foster, age 89, who asked questions and listened intently to what the chiefs had to say.
“I’ve never seen a greater level of cooperation between our two police departments, and this event was just one example of our working together,” said Chief Vincent. “The ribbon of asphalt that makes up the boundary between two cities should not divide the neighborhood. Both police chiefs walked along 49th Street picking up trash in this one community, then sat side-by-side answering questions for this one community. Making and keeping this community great requires teamwork at every level, and I’m happy that Chief Holloway and I are setting the example.”
There were plenty of fun activities including book giveaways for children from the Bluebird Books Bus, games, prizes, plus free breakfast and lunch for volunteers.
“It was a great day for community and collaboration,” said Tober. “To see hundreds of people come together, absent personalities and politics, but solely for the betterment of both communities and the environment truly warmed my heart.”