Plastic bottle caps? Yes!” said David Thompson, as he plucked a cap from the ground with his trash grabber. Thompson is one of a group of volunteers who came together a clean up of Gulfport’s waterfront and surrounding alleyways on Shore Boulevard, Saturday, April 14. During the summers Thompson camps and lives in America’s National Parks and in the winter he lives in Gulfport. Now he’s volunteering in the city, with a focus on sustainability and the environment.
Thompson’s advice to people thinking about getting involved?
“Get out and mix and talk with people, stay informed.” said Thompson, 71.
Although this was Thompson’s first time at the beach cleanup, the volunteer group isn’t new to the task. Headed by the non-profit, volunteer organization Gulfport Neighbors, the group meets on the second Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
“Between 6 and 20 people show up to the cleanups, but we have about 200 people on our email list,” said Karen Vanderbeek, Gulfport Neighbors volunteer. Volunteers include not only community members, but also school and church groups like the St. Pete Chiropractic School.
“There’s times it’s just a flow of people who are helping,” said Wolfgang Deininger, Gulfport Neighbors volunteer. The non-profit lives and works by their motto: “Many hands and big hearts can make a difference.”
Their work doesn’t go unnoticed. “Sometimes people just walk by and say thank you,” said Vanderbeek.
In addition to hosting the beach cleanups, Gulfport Neighbors has helped locals with yard work, particularly older people with overgrown yards in need of a little TLC.
To get involved, simply join the group on the second Saturday of everything month. Sign-in at one of the pavilions, grab one of the provided bags and a free bottle of water, then get picking! Gulfport Neighbors has a limited supply of trash grabbers and encourages participants to bring their own if possible.