Dozens of children bag litter during vacation Bible school

Saturday, June 30, 2007
Maddie Brune, 9, deposited a Styrofoam cup while cleaning the downtown Cape Girardeau riverfront with other members of Centenary United Methodist Church's vacation Bible school Friday.

Wearing latex gloves, more than a dozen children and adults from Centenary United Methodist Church picked up cigarette butts, broken beer bottles and other litter along the cobblestoned Cape Girardeau riverfront Friday morning.

"We are trying to serve our local community," said Walt Paquin, service project coordinator for the church, as he took a break from directing the cleanup.

The focus of the task is less on environmental cleanup and more on helping others, he said. "This is more of an emphasis on loving your neighbor," Paquin said.

On the practical side, such litter cleanup is something that children can easily do, he said.

During the weeklong vacation Bible school, a different group of children did a service project each day. Most of the projects involved picking up litter around town.

Those who attended Centenary United Methodist Church's vacation Bible school finished the week Friday by spraying pastor Jeff Long with an explosive combination of Diet Coke and Mentos. (Kit Doyle)

Paquin said close to 100 children have been involved in the cleanup work.

The Rev. Jeff Long, pastor of Centenary, helped with the cleanup Friday. He said he was surprised how many cigarette butts were scattered along the cobblestones and large rocks along the river bank.

Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape, stopped by to view the cleanup. "I think it is great," said Mills, whose organization works to revitalize and redevelop the city's downtown.

With the downtown Libertyfest celebration on the Fourth of July, the cleanup couldn't come at a better time, she said.

Long said some children indicated that picking up trash was their favorite part of vacation Bible school.

"I can't believe all the glass we are finding and the cigarette butts," said Maddie Brune, 9, of Cape Girardeau.

Connor Murphy, 7, said picking up trash among the riverfront rocks was fun.

But the cleanup program did have its drawbacks.

"Sometimes it is very gross," said Hayden Jemison, 7.

Abby Shupert, 10, said her hands were sweating in the latex gloves. "Your hands get all hot in the sun," she said.

Anna Juhlin, 7, lamented the litter and its effect on wildlife. "I think people shouldn't put this stuff out here," she said. If the litter were left, she said, "the animals would start eating cans and they would die."

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