“There are many people who work over six months to bring everything together and one of the unsung heroes is Susie Ajoc, director of Community Services for the City of St. Petersburg,” said the main organizer Margarete Tober, right foreground in the red top, president of the non-profit Gulfport Neighbors volunteer group. “Susie and her team have helped in bringing volunteers from various community groups to the event.”
record crowd of about 200 people attended the 5th-annual Mayors’ 49th Street Cleanup & 4th-annual Chiefs’ Chat and Community Forum on the morning of Saturday, October 13, said the main organizer Margarete Tober, president of the non-profit Gulfport Neighbors volunteer group which organized the event.
The event began at 8:15 a.m. in Trolley Market Square, between the two Tangerine Avenues at 49th Street, which is the boundary between Gulfport to the east and St. Petersburg to the west.
The theme of the event is “One street, two cities, one goal – collaboration,” said Tober.
Key dignitaries who attended included St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson, St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway, Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent and special guest Pinellas County Schools Police Chief Luke Williams.
The crowd was treated to a complementary breakfast, listened to short speeches, used litter pickers to retrieve trash and recyclable items, learned about conservation from various vender booths, enjoyed a wax hand dipping and coloring activity, and indulged in free ice cream and cake to celebrate the 5th milestone year for the cleanup.
Registered participants were assigned to one of four different teams for the cleanup. A total of 128 pounds of items that can be recycled and 528 pounds of garbage were collected, said Tober.
Dignitaries from the cities of St. Petersburg and Gulfport as well as from key community groups attended and worked at the event. Seated and pictured from left are St. Petersburg Vice Mayor Kanika Tomalin; St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman; Laura Henderson, wife of Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson who is on her left; Gulfport councilmembers Michael Fridovich and Paul Ray; Gulfport Vice Mayor Christine Brown; (partially hidden) Steve Cleveland, executive director of the Florida Dream Center and overseer of the Adopt a Block program; and Michael Robinson, coordinator of the South St. Petersburg Adopt a Block program. “I feel very fortunate to have a great partner in Mayor Sam Henderson and the city of Gulfport,” said Kriseman. “Everything we can do to lift up the businesses and the residents who live around here is a great thing. If a community looks better, you feel better about it and that’s how you start moving things in the right direction. If I’m going to ask people to pick up litter, I need to demonstrate that I’m willing to do it too.”
Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson speaks to the crowd while, seated from left, St. Petersburg’s Vice Mayor Kanika Tomalin and Mayor Rick Kriseman listen. “This event symbolizes the fact that people in two different communities are all willing to get up on a Saturday morning to take care of a street,” said Henderson. “It’s that important. And, it’s gotten bigger every year.”
Pinellas County Schools Police Chief Luke Williams, left, answers a question from the crowd while Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent, center, and St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway, right, watch for questions from the audience. “We’ve started something that has become a popular trend,” said Vincent. “It’s two cities working together for a common goal,” said Holloway. “We’re involved in community policing, learning the issues and addressing those issues.”
Chandler Clarkson of St. Petersburg, a veteran participant, worked solo to collect a green bag filled with recyclable items. “This event was particularly interesting because it was also a meeting of city officials and chiefs,” he said. “I wanted to hear what they had to say.”
A group of physical therapists from all over the Tampa Bay area, who are also friends, banded together as the “PT Day of Service” team to make a difference. In addition to bagged items, they also found a mattress that was retrieved a City of Gulfport maintenance worker who used a powered four-wheel cart to haul the large item to the city’s holding area for garbage. “It’s amazing how many cigarette butts and plastic bottles we picked up,” said one group member. They also found golf balls, a light bulb and an animal vertebrae.
Heather Hudson, left, a hand-waxing technician with Pinnacle Amusement South of Largo, assists Toniyha Matthews of St. Petersburg at the popular booth. Participants lined up to place one soaped hand in ice water for ten seconds then dip it in and out of hot wax and ice water about six times to create a take-home hand replica that can then be decorated, said Hudson. The soap helps the wax to slide off the hand at the end of the process. “I’m probably going to give it to my mom because she keeps all my stuff so I don’t lose it,” said Williams. Gulfport’s trolley is in the background and was filled with participants who were taken to a section of 49th Street South where they used hand-held pickers to retrieve recyclable items and garbage as part of the morning’s cleanup effort. The trolley will soon be retired to become a permanent centerpiece in the new park that is now called Trolley Market Square.
Jonathan Sterner, a City of Gulfport Streets Department maintenance worker, uses a hand-held fish scale to weigh each bag of collected items returned by participants.