AUBURN GRESHAM — Before Tuesday, Subira Mitchell, 12, had never volunteered before, let alone cleaned up a local park.
But after enjoying her stint sprucing up the park as part of an Earth Day effort, she said she wished she had done so earlier.
"I believe that if you do good then good things will happen to you. And besides, volunteering teaches you how to care about someone and not just yourself," said the seventh grader at Betty Shabazz International Charter School. "I wish I had volunteered before today, but better late than never."
To recognize Earth Day, which was Monday, students from Shabazz, Perspectives Middle Academy and Westcott Elementary School joined volunteers from the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation, a non-profit organization, to help clean up Auburn Park.
The South Side park is tucked away amongst the bungalows in the middle of the 7800 block of South Eggleston Avenue and has a lagoon and waterfall, as well as a community of ducks.
"This is very important because it teaches kids to respect their community by not littering and contribute to the upkeep of the neighborhood," said Linda Johnson, executive director of the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corp., which organized the event, now in its seventh year. "The best way to teach youth is by example, and that's why we have plenty of adults out here cleaning up with them."
One of those adults was Tim Hughes, director of Real Estate and Facilities for ComEd, who participated with other ComEd employees.
"Our employees volunteer each year for various projects as a way to say 'thank you' to the community for supporting us," Hughes said. "These are our customers, so it is only right that we give back to them anytime we can."
Picking up paper off the ground, raking leaves and filling up garbage bags with trash is not what Brittany Alexander, 11, had in mind when she agreed to volunteer. She will scold anyone she sees throwing trash on the ground.
"I knew we were going to clean up the park, but I guess I did not expect it to have so much trash," said the sixth grader at Perspective Middle Academy School. "Now, every time I see trash on the ground I will remember my volunteer work and say, 'Shame of you' to anyone I see" littering.
Terrell Davis, 12, said he enjoyed cleaning up the community.
"I don't live in Auburn Gresham but I go to school here so I am part of the community. I go past here every now and then and see people throwing stuff on the ground. I never really saw anything wrong with that until now."