Giving Back: Community chips in for Clean Sweep
Published 12:12 am Wednesday, September 23, 2015
LAPLACE — Keeping their section of Airline Highway clean isn’t something new for Omega Psi Phi members, but Saturday was the first time the fraternity participated in St. John the Baptist Parish Clean Sweep.
The Fall Clean Sweep day started with groups gathering at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Thomas F. Daley Memorial Park in LaPlace. Volunteers were given gloves, trash bags and trash pickers before heading out to a section of the community to clean.
Before the clean-up started, Parish President Natalie Robottom spoke to the crowd. She advised groups to be cautious while cleaning alongside highways and added police and firefighters would trail volunteers to keep them safe.
“We not only encourage you to do this today, but select areas where you live to make sure they’re clean,” Robottom said. “It’s more than just beautification. From a parish perspective, when there is debris and garbage in our drainage system, it interferes with our drainage. People throw things along the (roadway) and when we try to cut the grass, it causes problems and breaks our machines.
“That’s what people see when they come into our parish, and that’s why we think it’s important at least twice a year to focus on keeping St. John beautiful.”
Omega Psi Phi, which has chapters in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, is built on community service, member Ernest Parquet said.
“We try to identify activities where we can really make an impact on the community,” he said.
Fraternity members, along with some of their sons, gathered Saturday to clean the section of Airline Highway they adopted. The section begins in front of Rainbow Chevrolet in LaPlace and stretches one and a half miles toward Reserve.
Members picked up bottles, plastic bags and what appeared to be part of the cushion from a chair.
Omega Psi Phi members already try to clean their section of the highway at least twice a year, Parquet said, adding community service is a driving force for the fraternity.
“We try to have the biggest impact that we can on our community,” he said.
Multiple members of the fraternity were excited to clean the highway and be out doing good work.
Member Stanford Williams I brought his son Stanford Williams II to the clean-up day.
“For me, being out here is gratifying,” Williams said. “It’s a good example for my son to see other guys taking an interest in the community, providing a clean and safe environment for all.”
Williams wants the community to notice the fraternity’s presence through the positive things members do.
“We are not a social organization, we are about community involvement and empowering our community through our actions,” Williams said.
Volunteer Avery Gauff also brought his son to participate.
“People see Greek life on campus, but they don’t see the other side, the community side,” Gauff said. “This is what I want my son to see and be a part of.”
Members weren’t the only ones from Omega Psi Phi fraternity to participate; chapter president Eric Wright was present Saturday, as well.
“We are here to help the community; we are here to serve,” Wright said.
“Omega Psi Phi is a community organization, and that’s what we do. We give back to the community. We serve through our mentorship programs, highway clean-up and giving scholarships to high school students every year. We are just here to help.”
After cleaning up their section and gathering the trash bags filled with debris, fraternity members also gathered in front of their state adoption sign for a post clean-up photo before returning to Thomas F. Daley Memorial Park for ice water and jambalaya cooked by parish staff.
In all, parish officials reported 25 groups and 120 volunteers participated in Saturday’s clean-up. There was an estimated 225 bags of trash collected. The next Clean Sweep day will be March 19.
— By Raquel Derganz Baker