Volunteers working to clean up Shelton

SHELTON — Several areas of the city need a good cleaning - and one group of volunteers has been offering up some white-glove service.

The Shelton Clean-up Project — created as a Facebook group interested in cleaning up areas of the city that have become littered with trash — has spruced up long stretches of Bridgeport Avenue and Canal Street and have three more cleanups planned this fall.

“Community organized groups like the Shelton Clean-Up Project are solely interested in accomplishing the goal - picking up trash and taking pride in our town,” Matt McGee, a member of the group’s leadership team, said.

The group is holding three fall cleanups - Bridgeport Avenue Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon (meet at Common Grounds Coffee Shop); Shelton Avenue Oct. 10 from 4 to 6 p.m. (meet at 300 Shelton Ave. with parking under the power lines); and Pine Rock Park on Oct. 23 from 4 to 6 p.m. (meet at the Pine Rock Park playground).

“We have intrinsic motivation to accomplish the goal whereas if organized differently I don't think you would see nearly as much action or organization,” McGee, who is once again running for an alderman seat in Ward 3 this November, added.

Joining McGee on the leadership team are Joseph Cayer, Michael James Creighton, Ola Kozak, Joanna Rose and Elizabeth Buchetto.

Cayer, a lifelong Shelton resident, said his interest in tackling the trash problem started a year ago, when he saw the amount of filth at the bus stop near the Shelton Walmart on Bridgeport Avenue.

"I went in and asked the manager of Walmart if they could put a trash can down by the bus stop,” Cayer said. “(Walmart staff) told me it was the (state) Department of Transportation’s responsibility, so I went on the In and Around Shelton (Facebook) page and asked who's responsible.”

Cayer said he never received an answer from page respondents — except to be told “if you don't like it do something about it.”

So Cayer acted. A few weeks later, Cayer said one of his friends, AJ Simko, started a Facebook page dedicated to cleaning up the city one roadway at a time and he immediately jumped at the chance to help.

“It was a great success,” Cayer recalled, “we did about a mile of both sides of Bridgeport Avenue. Matt then messaged me interested in doing more events, so I said I would love to help. If the city can't keep up with the litter bugs, the citizens need to pull together.”

McGee, who has aided in organizing various groups in the past, was inspired by Simko’s efforts. He reached out to Simko a few months later about holding additional cleanup sessions.

“Unfortunately, AJ wasn't available, but he gave me the keys so-to-speak to the Facebook group and connected me with others who helped him organize the first cleanup,” McGee said.

That was when he connected with Cayer and the other residents who would later become part of the group’s leadership team. The first mission - clean up Shelton Avenue. Then they moved to Canal Street, sprucing up the area prior to one of the movie nights last month.

McGee said the city Conservation Department has provided the group with bags and gloves to use at cleanups.

Group members say the amount of garbage strewn throughout the city has increased in recent years. McGee said the increase in people driving through the city creates a situation where it is very easy to throw trash out the window and dash.

“We're just trying to do our part,” McGee said, “and take pride in our town.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com