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NEAT … A Western Springs’ Tradition for 29 Years

In 1985, some community-minded citizens helped plan the first village-wide clean-up day. And, since then, literally thousands of adults and youths have taken part in this spring ritual.

Eve Dattilo & Terrel Clarke, organized the 1986 NEAT clean-up
Eve Dattilo & Terrel Clarke, organized the 1986 NEAT clean-up
1986 was Western Springs’ Centennial Celebration year. And, to make sure the town looked its best, the village’s Architectural and Appearance Commission created the Neighborhood Environmental Appearance Team (“NEAT” for short).

 

NEAT sponsored a number of events that year, including a home improvement show, a landscape design presentation, and a course on pruning and composting. However, most of its energies were directed toward organizing a post-winter pick-up and removal of litter from public parkways, playgrounds, picnic areas, school yards, and church grounds. Broken branches, soggy leaves, and discarded pieces of paper were all fair game.

 

To accomplish this mission, it enlisted the help of numerous volunteer groups, such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Indian Guides and Princesses, Garden Club, school groups, etc.

 

Starting at 9 a.m., volunteers came to the old Clark Recreation Center armed with rakes, brooms, and gloves. There, they were given garbage bags and geographic assignments. And, later in the afternoon, they were invited back for refreshments and awards. Initially operating with just a $600 budget, the clean-up day was designed to do more than just rid the village of a winter’s aftermath. It was designed to educate the village’s children about the importance of protecting the environment. 

 

Soon, the Western Springs Business Association and the local refuse contractor began sponsoring the event, with the village and park district assisting as well. And, by 1995, more than 400 volunteers were involved.  Some 36 sites around the village were being given a clean-up. Of course, the weather didn’t cooperate every year. In the year 2000, the volunteers woke up to three inches of snow! 

 

 In 2003, the annual one-day event was credited with gathering an estimated 12 tons of yard waste and garbage comprised of 750 compost bags and several hundred plastic bags containing non-biodegradable waste. Participants included 481 youths and 310 adult volunteers.  

 

Now celebrating its 29th year, the NEAT clean-up day will take place on Saturday, April 5 (or April 6 in the event of rain). So, if you’d like to be a part of this year’s effort, just register with the Recreation Center at 708-246-9070.

 

Each week, the Western Springs Historical Society presents a “Blast from the Past”. To view prior stories, visit us at www.westernspringshistory.org.  

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