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Church cleans up neighborhood, literally

POSTED January 24, 2012 9:03 p.m.

Turlock's alleys may be littered with junk, but just how much rubbish fills those backstreets?

On Jan. 14, Turlock Covenant Church removed 1.8 tons of trash – including couches, mattresses, televisions, and assorted detritus — from alleys near its South Laurel Street campus.

“Just a ton of garbage,” said Steve Carlson, Turlock Covenant Church senior pastor. “Literally, it's a ton.”

While the job may be dirty, alley cleanups are a longstanding tradition for the Westside church. The custom has its roots in neighborhood watch meetings hosted at the church nearly 15 years ago, where residents frequently voiced concerns over dirty alleys.

Though the cleanups ceased for a five or six year span, for the past five years Turlock Covenant Church parishioners have cleaned local alleys at least once per quarter. Carlson credited the City of Turlock Neighborhood Services, who provide garbage bags and some assistance, and Turlock Scavenger, which provides free dumping, with making the cleanups an ongoing success.

The church has the cleanups down to a science – a truck hauls away big loads, some workers trim hedges and weeds, and most rake trash into garbage bags for later pickup. On Jan. 14, just about 25 people were able to clear the 1.8 tons of trash.

Those workers ranged in age from 80 to only 5 or 6 years old. Through the years, a large number of area junior high and high school students have joined the cleanups, too, through the church's youth ministry.

“What's neat about it is some of them live in the neighborhood, and they're cleaning the neighborhood,” Carlson said. “Some of these guys are guys that would have been tagging the alleys. Now they're cleaning them.”

After a solid morning of cleaning, everyone meets back at Turlock Covenant Church for lunch. There, the workers await the most exciting moment of the day – an announcement of the grand total for just how much garbage was picked up.

In addition to shining up the neighborhood, the cleanups build goodwill with the community, Carlson said. Through talking with neighbors, the church often learns of other items in need of hauling away, and does what it can to help out.

“It's just a way for us to contribute and be a blessing to the neighborhood,” Carlson said.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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