Many of the volunteers who spent their Saturday morning picking up trash downtown don’t even live in Ashland.
But when organizers for the One Neighborhood at a Time beautification project came calling, they got up early and put on their working clothes because they appreciate the city and want it to look its best.
“I like Ashland and I spend a lot of time over here. I live 15 minutes away and I shop here,” said Cheryl Akins, who lives in South Point, Ohio.
Also, although she now is a Buckeye, Akins is originally from Salyersville and holds on to her Kentucky pride. “I love Kentucky and I always come back here,” she said.
The morning’s work doesn’t just clean the streets they walk, but also the streets festivalgoers will tread during this summer’s festival season, pointed out Vanessa Daniels, who lives in Ironville. Daniels was joined by her daughter, Kevanna, and her friend, Myranda Daniels, all of them filling black plastic bags with debris. “I wanted to make it look nice for Loverboy,” Daniels said. The 1980s rock band Loverboy is among the recently-announced headliners for this year’s Summer Motion. “A lot of people will come here from all over,” she said.
Sisters Laura Brown and Sally Inglis live in the Ironton area but crossed the river because Ashland is where they spend a significant amount of their spare time.
“Our mother grew up here, so this is our town too,” Ingles said. The sisters kept busy combing the ornamental foliage in front of the First Baptist Church on Winchester Avenue for pop bottles and other unsightly junk.
They learned about the cleanup from their brother, David Markel, who is part of a cleanup team organized by his employer, Whayne Supply Co.
Many of the downtown volunteers were part of the Whayne team, which is celebrating 100 years in business and set a goal of 100 volunteer hours to match that figure.
A morning spent sprucing up downtown served as a reminder of good times in the past, according to Ray McKinney of Westwood, one of the Whayne volunteers. He and fellow volunteers spent much of their morning recalling Ashland in its retail prime.
“We grew up here. As kids, we used to come down here and get all our school stuff. ... It would be nice to see the city live on,” he said.
Boyd County High School senior Rachel Walker came because she loves volunteer work and her city, too. “I’ve known this place my whole life, and I want to see it look nice,” she said.
The wide-ranging origins of the volunteer corps was welcome news to Mayor Chuck Charles, who came loping through downtown with his chocolate lab Remington on one of his periodic Walks With the Mayor.
“That’s what community is all about, people coming together and, instead of looking to the government to fix things, say ‘I’ll help,’” Charles said.
The cleanups should be a regular event, he said. “It looks like we’re open for business.”
The cleanup, which focused on the downtown business district, precedes next weekend’s Downtown Business Tour, which offers a look around and a bit of city history, along with special shopping incentives.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.