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McClure's army hits the streets

September 19, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

Hagerstown's first Operation Pride and Groom went off nearly without a hitch Saturday afternoon.

About 15 volunteers picked up trash, pulled weeds, cleaned flower beds and did anything else it took to spruce up the appearance of downtown during a two-hour sweep of the city's center.

"I think it was definitely a success," said Hagerstown City Councilman J. Wallace McClure, a downtown businessman who came up with the idea for Operation Pride and Groom.

City resident Lisa Lynn, 39, said she had a dual purpose in volunteering. She wanted the city to look cleaner, but she also wanted to teach a lesson to her two sons - Zachary, 11, and Gregory, 6 - who joined her.

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"I came out here because I want my kids to be help-minded. The only way to do that is by example," she said.

Lori Harmon, a 43-year-old Fountainhead resident, was trying to set a similar example for her son, Austin, 6. She said she has noticed downtown "looking trashy" when she takes her son to music classes, so she wanted to take part in fixing the problem.

"If the city looks clean, I think it generates a feeling of pride and growth," Harmon said.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II praised the effort, but also raised the concern that some residents and business owners might use it as an excuse not to clean up their own properties.

"My biggest problem is I don't want people to take advantage of the people who do this (cleanup)," Bruchey told the volunteers before they started.

But those participating in the effort said they hope that just the opposite happens, and that Operation Pride and Groom will inspire residents and merchants to keep their properties clean.

"I think it's important so that the people who live along here would take a little pride and keep the area clean," said Margaret Graff, 75, a volunteer from Fountainhead.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer, who participated in the cleanup, said he was stunned to see that most of the trash picked up was cigarette butts. He suggested that Hagerstown might need a "butt law" that sets stiff fines on people who discard cigarette butts on the sidewalks and streets.

"I'm not one for making new laws, but I kind of like that one," Boyer said.

The volunteers, who were divided into four groups, filled several bags of trash and dropped off other refuse in city trash cans along their routes, which mainly kept to Washington and Franklin streets.

About the only disappointment for McClure came near the end of the cleanup when he and other volunteers were verbally harassed by some people who ridiculed their work and yelled obscenities.

"It was an absolute embarrassment to the volunteers who came along to help me," he said.

McClure said there might be a need for police or fire police to accompany the group in the future.

Operation Pride and Groom is intended to be a weekly event, weather permitting. McClure plans to have volunteers meet again Saturday at the Mid-City parking lot off East Washington Street near North Locust Street at 2 p.m.

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