THE ISSUE: Littering in Pine BluffTHE IMPACT: City leaders and many residents are hoping that by organizing clean-up efforts, Pine Bluff can improve its image and attract more residents and industry.
While Go Forward Pine Bluff is a large redevelopment plan containing many different projects and ideas for the city’s future, grassroots efforts will play an important role as well, according to Go Forward officials.
Enter Milton Jenkins, who said he is aiming to help clean up the city’s litter, thus creating a better image of Pine Bluff for the world to see.
Jenkins is heading the Pine Bluff Eastside PRIDE Clean-Up Committee and is inviting citizens to volunteer to clean garbage from neighborhoods on Saturday, Nov. 4. Volunteers should arrive at 10 a.m. at New St. Hurricane Baptist Church at 34th Avenue and Ohio Street, where they will be assigned to teams by zone.
They will be cleaning between Mississippi Street, Olive Street, 28th Avenue and 38th Avenue.
“I have a great love for Pine Bluff, and I am an activist,” Jenkins said. “I have been doing this for 50 years. Cleaning up the community is at the heart of getting people together. Cleanliness effects your mindset. People litter their community and it becomes a mindset. We want to challenge people in the community to make sure it is kept-up. We set a bad example for our children when they see adults doing negative things. We have to clean our community. It has to do with cleanliness, which is next to Godliness.”
As a minister, Jenkins quoted from the Biblical book of Genesis chapter 2 verse 15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work in and keep it.” Jenkins said this verse shows that people are responsible for cleaning their communities.
“God wants us to be stewards of our community,” Jenkins said. “It is an attitudinal thing to wake up the community to get involved and monitor what goes on. This is part of watching our neighborhoods. We are part of the Go Forward effort to maintain our community.”
The Go Forward Pine Bluff revitalization projects are moving forward as a result of Pine Bluff voters’ approval of a five-eighths cent sales tax increase in June 2017. This tax is expected to generate $31.5 million over its seven-year lifespan, and the Go Forward Pine Bluff staffers expect to raise an additional $19 million to $20 million from grants and gifts.
Go Forward Pine Bluff supporters say this public-private partnership will improve Pine Bluff through quality of life, education, economic development and government infrastructure. Go Forward CEO Ryan Watley welcomes the coordinated clean-up effort as it aligns with one of its 27 pillars.
“We have beautification projects that are being planned around the city,” Watley said. “We need more citizens to take part in community engagement. It helps Pine Bluff to move forward. Beautification of our city is one of our initiatives.”
A study by the State University System of Florida found that litter can affect more than just the environment. It can also hurt a city’s economy.
“Litter is one of the most visible signs that people are not taking pride in the places where they live, work, and play. Urban centers are especially vulnerable to the impacts of litter. The U.S. Conference of Mayors, an organization representing 1,100 mayors of the nation’s largest cities, recognized that some of the more serious social consequences of urban decline could be addressed by focusing on litter,” according to the study.
Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington said she welcomes the clean-up as well, recalling that Jenkins volunteered at an earlier clean-up at Southeast School.
“I describe Mr. Jenkins as a community activist who personally cleaned and helps keep the streets litter-free,” Washington said. “He felt called to a greater mission. He invited others to join him in cleaning the east side of Pine Bluff. I applaud Mr. Jenkins for choosing to be a role model and giving a challenge to take ownership in their neighborhoods. And we can instill pride and that is our goal of Go Forward Pine Bluff.”
Milton said he will organize another clean-up for the next four months in many neighborhoods of Pine Bluff. Milton intends to develop a maintenance procedure to keep the streets clean through adoption.
“It will be an ongoing deal,” Jenkins said. “We will ask people to work with us. We will put signs up: Stop littering. Keep streets clean. We intend to utilize this to jump-start other issues in our community: to reduce crime and save our children. There are a lot of things to be done.”