Armed with gloves, orange vests and trash bags, almost 200 student and community volunteers scoured the South Bethlehem streets Sept. 30. The volunteers collected garbage off the streets throughout the South Side and planted flowers along Third and Fourth streets.
The event, Fall South Side Clean Up, was led by Adrienne Washington, the assistant vice president for Community and Regional Affairs at Lehigh, and Missy Hartney, the main street manager for Third and Fourth streets in downtown South Bethlehem.
The event, organized by Lehigh’s chapter of the co-ed community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, typically occurs in Bethlehem each spring. This year, a fall event was added as well.
Several student groups participated in South Side Clean Up, including Eco-Reps and various Greek chapters. They partnered with the Community Service Office and local organizations like the SouthSide Art District and Community Action Development Corporation. Volunteers also included individual members of the Lehigh and Bethlehem communities.
Hartney said Lehigh students should feel like South Bethlehem is their home and should take pride in the community.
“Community Action was here today, there was a city council member that was here today, there were kids from Broughal (Middle School),” Washington said. “So it is a larger, broader community event.”
Volunteers picked up trash and recyclables throughout the South Side. The garbage was tied up in trash bags and left at street corners for removal.
Other groups were dispersed throughout Third and Fourth streets to plant flowers in designated spots to beautify the downtown area.
Students worked together with residents throughout the event.
“Being at Lehigh, I want to enhance South Bethlehem since it surrounds the school,” Brianna Gibson, ’21, said. “I wanted to do something I could be proud of. The work we did today was important, and I got to meet new people while helping out.”
Mairead Manning, ’20, said she thinks the clean up is a great way for students to get involved in the community. She said it was a fun way to meet new people and help South Bethlehem residents.
“The school and the town rely on each other a lot, so it’s important to give back,” Manning said.
For some upperclassmen at Lehigh, cleaning up the Bethlehem community has a personal benefit. Older students often lease houses or apartments on East Fifth Street and Hillside Avenue, which were the same areas assigned to the South Side Clean Up event.
“It’s cool to see students helping us out and helping the other residents,” Avery Hogue, ’18, said. “We live here, but it’s also about our neighbors who don’t all go to Lehigh but are affected by the school and the social scene that happens in this area.”
Manning said students participating in the clean up encountered as many red solo cups and beer cans as they encountered everyday litter.
“We kind of expected it to be honest,” Manning said. “Everyone knows what goes on down here at night so it’s gonna leave a lot of trash.”
The South Side Clean Up concluded with the launch of the “South Side Pride” campaign.
Paul Pierpoint, the recently retired vice president of community education for Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, is leading the initiative.
“This is the kind of event that brings people out,” Pierpoint said. “A day like today just shows you the kind of dedication people have to the South Side. Volunteers really came out for the community to clean it up and beautify the area.”
Pierpoint said he was at a meeting last winter with local residents and community leaders when the idea of the “South Side Pride” hit him. At the meeting, attendees spoke of the positive aspects of South Bethlehem, which ranged from diversity to performance venues to the schools and the neighborhood feel.
Pierpoint decided he wanted to launch a mission to spread the word of Bethlehem as a “remarkably safe, fun, funky place.”
Pierpoint said he sees the shopping and dining opportunities in town, along with the many festivals held throughout the year, as a catapult for Bethlehem’s success and is “100 percent behind” the new construction project downtown. He considers it a crucial investment in the development of the South Side.
“People don’t understand the South Side,” Pierpoint said. “People don’t get it. Maybe people who don’t know the South Side yet will finally realize this is a pretty cool place.”