BARNEGAT – Three scouting groups were part of approximately 75 total residents who gathered recently to help keep the streets clean in Barnegat.
While the skies above looked foreboding, nothing seemed to stop the volunteers signed up for the township-wide Adopt-a-Street program. They armed themselves with garbage bags and donned gloves provided by the township as they took on more than sixty streets to clear them of litter.
One of the key items that surfaced during the clean-up appeared representative of the times. It was not something the original organizers thought of as a concern when they first advocated for the program in 2019.
“We all found a lot of masks on the ground,” said Nora Hansen, a Barnegat High School junior. “They were the one thing that kept popping up over and over again.”
Hansen and Jenna Marcy were just entering their freshman year at Barnegat High School when they made a presentation to the local township committee regarding their desire to create an Adopt-a-Street program. They did so with the help of Michele Cucinotta, who once acted as their school guidance counselor.
Barnegat High School junior Skylar Dasti joined the two program originators as a leader soon after the Township Committee formally approved the Adopt-a-Street plans. The three returned to appear before the local government in September of this year.
Deputy Mayor Al Cirulli, the township liaison, commended the students on their efforts. He also gained assurances the three were training others to take their place when they graduate from high school.
“This is what makes Barnegat great,” said Mayor Al Bille. “Whether it’s the little things or the big things, this is what makes Barnegat great.”
The Adopt-a-Street program schedules clean-ups in both spring and fall and hopes to plan others. Children must be accompanied by adults and all are required to complete registration forms. Upon completion, bags are left at street corners for collection by the Department of Public Works. The Barnegat Police Department is aware of the program and continues its regular patrol to ensure that it is safe.
One new feature added to this year’s Adopt-a-Street event involved data collection. Michele Cucinotta’s role within the Barnegat School District has changed to the K-8 Student Assistance Coordinator/Drug Free Community Support Coordinator. She actively participates in the Communities that Cares program and asked volunteers to record certain items they came across.
“I had at least six groups report to me they found little alcohol nip bottles,” Cucinotta shared. “And, an assortment of flavored vapes thrown on the ground as well.”
According to Cucinotta, future events may include an expansion of the program to include local parks. One mother said that she tries to pick up trash she finds when she visits Project Playground and expressed her willingness to help with that aspect of cleaning up the town. Another mom called with a similar desire to assist.