Click here to see an audio slideshow of the community cleanup.

For the second year in a row, Joyce Perrey led a Westbrook community cleanup, which was held on Saturday. A lifelong Westbrook resident, Perrey, 49, started volunteering through her church, Trinity Lutheran, which she has been a member of for two decades. During the day, Perrey is a social worker in Portland, but her work with the cleanup has led her into more volunteering in Westbrook. On Monday, Perrey sat down with the American Journal to talk about Saturday’s cleanup, her other volunteer work and what she’s learned about Westbrook by working in the community.

Q: How long have you been involved in the cleanup?

A: This is the second year that I’ve organized it. My church, Trinity Lutheran, actually did a cleanup about four years ago. So, this is technically the third, but it’s the second year of a number of local churches working together. That’s what I think is interesting about this cleanup. It was the first kickoff project of local churches working together.

Q: Why did you decide to get involved?

A: I wanted to do something for the community, and to try to do something on a larger scale, which is why I thought involving the churches could expand what we could do.

Q: How many people participated in the cleanup?

A: This year we had 70. Last year, we had about 100.

Q: What was the age range of the volunteers?

A: We had young children and we had people into their 70s.

Q: Where did they clean?

A: It was all over the city – the high school, the bike parks, the skate parks, the snow dump, Main Street, the park, Beaver Pond. There were actually more sites this year than last year. The city organizes which sites we go to.

Q: Do you know how much trash was collected?

A: Oh no, I couldn’t tell you that. A fair amount, quite a bit. The city was in better shape this year overall, to begin with. The Public Services Department has done a good job.

Q: What kind of trash did they find?

A: Last year it was a lot of brush from the big storm, and this year it was more just litter.

Q: How did this year’s cleanup compare to last year?

A: It was much easier. It was easier on my end of the organization, and it was even better organized this year by the city. All in all, it went very well. We learned from the last year’s cleanup how we could improve upon it this year.

Q: Are there any changes you might make next year?

A: I might like to reach out more to businesses to have them pick up around their general areas. We also collect bottles and cans and they go to the redemption center and the money goes toward the Westbrook Food Pantry. It would be great if people could bring more bottles to the park.

Q: Do you know how much money you raised?

A: Not yet. I’m going to go there today. Last year, we raised $50. A good thing that came out of last year’s cleanup is that the food pantry and 302 Redemption Center have continued to have a box there for bottles and cans, and they’ve been able to collect money throughout the course of the year. So, that’s kind of a positive outgrowth of the cleanup last year.

Q: Did any local businesses sponsor the cleanup?

A: Full Court Press donated the signs that are up around the city. Hannaford also made a contribution, as did Home Depot. That went toward water for the people and gloves.

Q: Has this project inspired you to do more for the community?

A: The group of churches that have been working together – and that would include Trinity Lutheran Church, Prides Corner Congregational Church, Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church and the Vineyard – we also developed an adopt-a-school program last year, where each of those churches has adopted one of the elementary schools in Westbrook. We collected snacks and clothing and school supplies. We’re collecting Box Tops for Education and Campbell’s soup labels, which they use on different activities for the students. The Vineyard just held a pizza party and movie night for families.

Q: Have you learned anything about Westbrook from your volunteer work that you didn’t know before?

A: I’ve learned a lot about Westbrook since I started doing this. There are a lot of resources here for people. There are 15 churches that I know of in Westbrook, which I didn’t realize before. I’ve met a number of people through those churches, and some of those people are actually neighbors of mine, and I didn’t know them. So, I’ve met some of my neighbors doing this church project. I’ve learned about all the things that various churches do. This year at the Westbrook Together Days on Sunday, a group of pastors are organizing an ecumenical service. We’ll be having a church service in Riverbank Park. There could be as many as three to five churches that would be participating in that. So, that ought to be really exciting.

Q&A with Joyce Perrey Elmira Nappi, left, and Kathy Lake, both of Westbrook, pick up debris around the Westbrook Common area on Main Street during Saturday’s cleanup.(twokids) Two 10-year-olds, Alex Cottrell, left, and Gus Feveles, both of Westbrook, fill bags with trash Saturday at Saccarappa Cemetery

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