Church, community groups help spruce up NashuaBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Sunday News Correspondent May 04. 2013 9:43PM
NASHUA - Hundreds of people gathered Saturday to help clean up blighted and neglected areas of the city that otherwise might not be improved.
An estimated 500 volunteers from various church groups and youth service organizations swarmed the Tree Streets community in an effort to prove that people really can make a difference.
"It feels really good to be out here today and to help this neighborhood," said Tessa Wright, 14, of Milford. Wright spent the day picking up trash along a large section of Nashua's Heritage Rail Trail, ridding the path of bottles, beer cans, cigarette butts and more.
Work was done in several areas of the Tree Streets neighborhood as part of Nashua's Big Day of Serving event, which occurs each spring.
The Big Day of Serving is part of Group Mission Trips, a nonprofit organization that provides short-term mission trips to help youth connect to Jesus while serving throughout the country, according to its website.
Its mission is to bring together interdenominational youth groups in the community to improve and serve area neighborhoods while also connecting to Jesus, said the website.
About 17 members of the Milford United Methodist Church participated Saturday, working to improve the rail trail by removing garbage, weeds and graffiti.
"This youth mission project means a lot to us because it is helping our neighboring community," said Cathy Brown.
Volunteers were spread out through several inner-city streets, painting, cleaning, landscaping and beautifying many public and private pathways. They took their work into individual homes, as well as Marguerite's Place, the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter, Nashua's Police Athletic League, Ledge Street School, Los Amigo's and area parks.
"There is actually a lot of satisfaction in removing all of this graffiti," said Staci Blecharczyk of Nashua. Her church, Christ the King Lutheran Church in Nashua, had about 10 people participating. "We are always looking for something to do that will help benefit the community, and this was a perfect opportunity for us."
Ann Willis of the Amherst Church of Our Savior spent most of the day pulling weeds along the Heritage Rail Trail.
"We are hoping to eradicate this Japanese knotwood, which is highly invasive. We are also building two raised plant beds for the Police Athletic League's after-school program," said Willis. "This is all about passing it forward."
The PAL community garden was one of many projects Saturday - improvements that would likely not be made otherwise, according to organizers.
Some of the work, including the PAL garden and a nearby mural completed by Positive Street Art, was funded through a New Hampshire Healthy Eating Active Living foundation grant, coordinated through Nashua's Division of Public Health and Community Services.
Materials for the other Big Day of Serving initiatives, mostly paint and landscaping supplies, were paid for by volunteer registration fees.
"This is a really cool project and such a team collaboration by many different organizations," said Corinn Dembkoski, a public health specialist.
Neighborhoods from Chestnut to Palm streets and from West Hollis to Ledge streets were the focus of Saturday's work.