By Sister Nancy Linenkugel, OSF
The 25th annual ”Ohio River Sweep”
volunteer clean-up effort along the 3,000 miles of the Ohio River, beginning in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and ending six states later at its end in Cairo, Illinois occurred on a recent sunny, summer Saturday morning.
Cincinnati spans a significant stretch of the Ohio River, so local groups of volunteers walked along the banks, armed with large garbage bags in their gloved hands, picking up trash and riverbank debris. Discarded plastic bottles, pieces of rope, tires, broken glass, boat fixtures, fast food wrappers and more, had all made their way to the river’s edge, and an army of volunteers was collecting it.
In fact, along those 3,000 miles of Ohio River shoreline and tributaries, 20,000 volunteers in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois picked up roughly 7,000 tons of trash and debris.
I ended up in the same clean-up area as Regina, Alan, and their five-year old son, Ian (pictured above). Baby Nick was at grandmas. We were in Regina’s hometown of New Richmond, OH, about 12 miles east of downtown Cincinnati right on the river.
Ian trooped along tirelessly and snagged the small items, like bottle caps and beverage straws. Alan handled the heavy things, like mud-filled tires and half-buried steel cables and soggy carpet pieces. Regina and I scoured along finding our own treasures of motor oil containers, lots of broken glass, and even bricks.
As we got acquainted, Regina said, “We really should be home staining our deck right now, but we felt it’s important to teach Ian how to serve others and how to take care of our earth.”
I said, “It’s wonderful to see your family out here. Caring for the earth is very Franciscan.”
Regina responded, “Franciscan? As in St. Francis of Assisi Franciscan? I need a statue of him in my flower garden. I like him. He’s special.”
You know what, Regina? I like him, too. And Ian is on the way to becoming a responsible care-taker of our earth, thanks to his conscientious parents.