Crossroads Church cleanup crew is at it again in Fitchburg

By Cliff Clark, cclark

UPDATED:   05/31/2015 07:02:54 AM EDT

FITCHBURG -- Sporting black T-shirts with the logo "We Love Our City," more than 300 volunteers spread out across Wards 4 and 5 for some much-needed housekeeping on Saturday morning.

"When people take back their neighborhood, it makes it a great place to live. We want people to be in their neighborhood and making things happen," said Mark Dohan, the co-chairman of the leadership team of the city's newly-formed revitalization group ReImagine North of Main.

ReImagine teamed up with the city's Crossroads Community Church, which has been holding the spring cleaning since 2011, for the effort.

"We each brought different resources and different people and, as a result, we get so much more done," said Dohan, who also serves as the executive director of the Twin Cities Community Development Corp.

While state Rep. Stephen DiNatale was preparing to lend his helping hand, he was admiring the T-shirts.

"That is pure genius. Not only does it pop, but it says it all," said DiNatale.

Leilani Cruz also believed in the message on the T-shirts.

"We're here to clean our city because we love it and spread the love of God to everybody," said Cruz, who was one of dozens of youth and hundreds of Crossroads' church members who volunteered.

Cruz was on a team, with the Davenport family, headed to Elm Street to start beautifying the city.

"I'm ready for whatever," said Sarah Davenport, who was waiting with her husband and daughter Kiara to head over the Elm Street.

It was their first year of volunteering for the annual cleanup and Kiara was anxiously waiting waiting to start.

"She's always ready to get dirty," said Sarah, with a proud smile, about Kiara.

The Davenports are members of Crossroads Community Church.

Pastor Brian Tomes said in the first year of the cleanup, church members cleared an area just in front of Longsjo Middle School of brush and planted a community garden.

It's taken off since then.

"Every year, we're making a bigger impact," he said.

Making that impact takes a great deal of planning, said Tomes, pointing to the large map with more than 40 sites in the two wards that were chosen to be the focus of the effort

"We worked Twin Cities CDC and we wanted to make sure we hit the areas that needed our attention," he said.

The effort also fits into the church's mission in the city, said Tomes.

"We're Crossroad Community Church. You can't get everybody in the church, so the church is going to come to everybody," he said.

He also said plans for next year's effort will begin almost immediately with the hope that next year there will be even more volunteers.

"It continues to grow and now with the city's participation, sometimes a spark can create a whole fire," said Tomes.

DiNatale, looking out over the hundreds getting prepared with cleaning supplies and instructions on where to go, recognized that spark.

"We're hoping we can grow this effort. That's what people want in Fitchburg, a clean city and that's what this is about; something as simple physically as cleaning the city," he said.

Fitchburg native Sam Squailia, participating for the first time, understood the effort's importance.

"I'm ready to clean up," she said, adding that she was headed to Riverfront Park to remove graffiti from the park's benches.

In addition to the church and neighborhood volunteers, the city Department of Public Works was spreading mulch and flowers purchased by the city fire department's union IAFF Local 3128 were being planted by about a dozens firefighters.

Follow Cliff Clark on Tout and Twitter @cliffcclark .

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