25 years of cleaning up 150-year-old Kearny

KEARNY – For the creator, Jane Mackesy, it’s hard to believe it’s been a quarter century since she, as a member of the Junior Woman’s Club of Arlington, began a town-wide cleanup day for Kearny.

When it first happened 25 years ago – Mackesy, now a member of the Woman’s Club of Arlington’s Evening Membership Department says there were a handful of volunteers.

“We used to cook hotdogs for the volunteers at Town Hall,” she said.

But now, there are so many volunteers – 100+ – that cooking has become an impossibility.

“We do have donuts at Town Hall now,” Mackesy said. “But volunteers don’t have to come to Town Hall on the day of the cleanup. We encourage volunteers to go to a place that means something to them.”

It all happens this year on Saturday, April 22, from 9:30 a.m. to noon, just a few days before the town’s 150th anniversary kickoff event. It coincides with the 26th annual Passaic River Cleanup, also a brainchild of the Woman’s Club through Third Ward Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle.

Mackesy hopes given the town’s anniversary, that more folks will consider volunteering to clean up some part of Kearny.

“It’s a great way to pull the whole community together,” she said. “People should come to Town Hall if they want free gloves, bags, to use while they clean.”

Mackesy says it’s important to keep a few things in mind on cleanup day.

First, volunteers shouldn’t go into the streets – stay on the sidewalk instead. They also shouldn’t pick up sharp items that could cause cuts or other kinds of injuries (including broken glass or even, perhaps, improperly discarded syringes.) Lastly, don’t go on private property – all cleanup should be done on public property.

Once cleanups are complete, volunteers should take their bagged trash to a town trash receptacle and place bags alongside them. (Even though registering isn’t required, volunteers really should go to Town Hall first to pick up gloves and trash bags.)

“I get such a sense of pride when I drive around and see so many collected bags of trash,” Mackesy said. “I hope it changes how people see littering. I hope people think twice after volunteering about throwing away items just anywhere. There’s no need to litter.”

In the past, volunteers included clients from Pathways to Independence, Girl Scouts, Boy Scout, Cub Scouts and students from Kearny schools.

In fact, teachers often give extra credit to students who volunteer.

They’ll be there this year, too. But anyone can take part in the cleanup – the young and not-so-young.

Mackesy also encourages volunteers who have iPhones to download an app called “Litterati,” available in the Apple App Store. Unfortunately, the app’s not ready yet for Android phones, but iPhone users will be able to use the app to identify, map and track cleaning of litter. (It can be used anywhere in the country, but for the sake of this story, it should be used during the cleanup in Kearny.)

Volunteers can even take and share photos of the litter they collect before bagging it.

“I recently picked up a cigarette pack,” Mackesy said. “I took a picture and hashtagged it #Newport. They keep track of the litter, what places it’s found.

In all, Mackesy hopes the town-wide cleanup isn’t just a single-day event in April.

It shouldn’t be a one-day event,” she said. “I hope people think twice before dropping litter in the first place. It’s very discouraging to see – so I hope people take greater pride in keeping their town clean and litter-free.”

Kevin Canessa Jr. | Observer Correspondent & Webmaster

Kevin Canessa Jr. is a journalist and webmaster at The Observer. He is responsible for the editorial content on the newspaper's website, the production of the e-Edition, covering the Nutley Police Department and more behind the scenes. From 2006 to 2008, he served as the editor of The Observer, where he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video for the very first time. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Fla., for four years until February 2016 and recently moved back to Kearny to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.