- Associated Press - Sunday, April 13, 2014

VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) - The city is about to get a lot cleaner.

Employees at Burkhart Insurance Agency are gearing up for the 10th anniversary of their City-Wide Cleanup, and to celebrate, owner Tony Burkhart has upped the ante in a variety of ways.

He’s allowing entry of up to 50 teams, and each can earn up to $250 for the not-for-profit agencies they’re representing by picking up trash throughout the city. Burkhart has also teamed up with the staff and parishioners of Thursday Church to target Main Street specifically.

And not just for one day.

Pastor Debbie Salters said in honor of the event’s anniversary, Thursday Church is committing to cleaning up downtown Main Street for one year. In return, Burkhart is donating $5,000 to their various mission projects as well as trash bags, brooms and even two leaf blowers to do the job for 52 weeks, the Vincennes Sun-Commercial reported (https://bit.ly/1hygdGJ).

And while their efforts are to be commended, Salters said both she and Burkhart are only hoping their dedication to cleanliness will spread throughout the community and spur similar joint ventures.

“Main Street is dirty,” she said matter-of-factly. “If you’ve ever walked down it, you’ve seen grit, dust, trash. So once a week we’ll have a crew that goes down and cleans up Main Street for a full year, either Sunday night or Monday morning so the merchants can start off their week with a clean street.

“And the whole point of sharing this story isn’t for us to pat ourselves on the back or to even thank Tony for his generosity,” Salters said. “We want to challenge other business men and women in our community to think beyond themselves. Perhaps they can bless a ministry or a not-for-profit and then, in turn, that group can bless the community. We’re hoping this will be contagious.”

The City-Wide Cleanup will be May 3, and another local church has also gotten involved. Rawlin Kegley, 23, the youth pastor at First Church of God, 1408 E. Saint Clair St., recently announced that he was leading a week-long mission project he’s dubbed “Volunteer Vincennes.”

Beginning April 27 and lasting through May 3, he’s challenging local residents to volunteer in their communities with projects that include everything from minor home repairs to feeding the hungry. He wants to connect willing volunteer teams with the organizations and people who need help.

And, as a part of his project, he’s put together a team to participate Burkhart’s City-Wide Cleanup as a culmination of the week’s efforts.

Salters said Kegley’s project has inspired them as well. Kegley is asking that those involved in his week-long mission consider making volunteerism to their respective organizations a regular priority.

“When you do something for a year, you’ve developed a habit of wanting to keep doing it,” she said. “I think at the end of this year, Thursday Church will continue to be committed to keeping Main Street clean. We’ll be invested.

“When you do something for your community, then all of a sudden it means so much more to you. This isn’t just a cleanup day, it’s an opportunity to do something bigger.”

Burkhart said in the 10 years since he’s been hosting the City-Wide Cleanup, he’s seen the community change for the better. He’s seen Thursday Church change the lives of people in Knox County, he said, so he wanted to bless them as they have blessed others.

“I’ve always said there are three types of people,” Burkhart said. “There are those who are part of the problem, those who don’t take care of their properties or their communities, and there are those who see it but only whine about it.

“But fortunately, we’re seeing more these days in that third category, the people who see it and do something about it,” he said. “If we could get more people in that third category and less in the first two, then our community will reach its potential.”

Klein Realty and Auction, 404 N. Seventh St., is also getting involved. On May 3, they will offer shredding services from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and they’re partnering with the Knox County Solid Waste Management District to aid people in getting rid of prescription medication and electronic items.

“We did this last year on the same day as Tony’s City-Wide Cleanup, and we agreed that they would complement each other well,” said owner Heath Klein. “A few years ago we decided that, as an office, we were going to go green and move toward a more paperless office. In doing that, we cleaned out a lot of files and were doing a lot of shredding so we decided to open it up to the community as well.

“Last year we filled up an entire box truck. And this year we decided to add the prescriptions and electronic items. We’re just looking to help people a little with their spring cleaning and give back to our community.”

And for people who don’t want to wait until May 3 to get their hands a little dirty, members of the Spirit of Vincennes Inc. who plan the annual Rendezvous on Memorial Day weekend, said they are in need of help to clean up the French Commons.

Frank Doughman, a member of the organization and superintendent of the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, said bad weather has kept volunteers from policing the area and they’re now officially behind schedule. Beginning this Saturday and lasting until the event, they’re asking for anyone willing and able to report to the area and help them pick up everything from sticks to trash.

“Typically we start a lot earlier than this,” Doughman said. “But the weather has delayed us. There are so many sticks and limbs down, and we can’t mow until we get all that picked up. We need to get it looking good for Rendezvous.

“No skill or ability needed,” he said with a chuckle. “We can teach you how to pick up sticks.”

Doughman said volunteers will gather each Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and work until about noon or 1 p.m.


Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, https://www.vincennes.com

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