BRIDGEPORT — Participants in the upcoming “Clean and Green” event say it isn’t just about picking up some neighborhood litter.
It’s about improving the well-being of residents who live here, because pollution in the air and on the ground can have devastating effects on public health: Scientists are studying possible links between pollution, stress, obesity and poverty.
“That’s the biological links,” said Melissa Naiman, a Bridgeport resident who’s also a researcher and assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health.
“Also, in seeing a dirty neighborhood, it gives certain social cues. People act a certain way in certain neighborhoods. Usually you feel 'safe' when you’re in a place with nice manicured lawns and the sidewalks and streets are clean. Your body responds to that.”
And when it’s filthy?
“Your body is experiencing stress,” she said.
The “Clean and Green” event takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Volunteers are asked to meet at the McGuane Park Field House, 2901 S. Poplar Ave.
The cleanup caravan begins around McGuane and next-door Palmisano Park, then travels around the neighborhood cleaning up on Halsted Street from Archer Avenue to Pershing Road, Morgan Street from 31st to 35th streets, and 31st Street from Morgan Street to Wentworth Avenue.
If there is enough time and volunteers, 35th Street from Racine to Normal avenues will also get a once-over.
Organizers of the event will provide participants with tools and gloves to help pick up trash and weeds, but participants are asked to bring their own if possible. Several neighborhood businesses are providing refreshments.
Volunteers under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Naiman and others are hoping the annual cleanup once again highlights the lack of garbage cans along Halsted Street — the abundance of litter on one of the neighborhood’s main thoroughfares has provoked complaints from business owners and led one resident to make a video tour of neighborhood trash.
All of which makes it more important to get out there and lend a hand, Naiman said.
“It all interacts," she said. "There’s definitely a lot of benefits to reducing the stress of a living in a dirty neighborhood. There’s a benefit to getting out and being active. There’s a benefit to growing a sense of community,” Naiman said.
“It’s layering so many types of positive influence.”
More "Clean and Green" days are scheduled for the rest of the year. Dates include May 17 (9 a.m.-noon), June 14 (9 a.m.-noon), July 12 (9-11 a.m.), Aug. 16 (9-11 a.m.), Sept. 13 (9 a.m.-noon) and Oct. 18 (9 a.m.-noon).
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