Seven years after local volunteers first celebrated Make a Difference Day, event organizers are branching out a bit.
Not only will dozens of residents be picking up trash, they’ll be painting over the graffiti that is currently marring alleyways in Safford’s downtown area during this year’s event, Oct. 24. South Eastern Arizona Clean and Beautiful Director Tim Linden said the City of Safford requested SEACAB’s assistance.
“We want to help when we can,” Linden said. “The City of Safford gets the releases from the businesses, the paint, and rollers as well as wire brushes if we need them, and SEACAB will be painting over it.”
Make a Difference Day was created in 1992 by USA WEEKEND magazine as a national day of community service. The day is still celebrated annually on the fourth Saturday in October.
Every year in the Gila Valley, families, students, and church groups have been picking up bags of trash in various designated cleanup areas and placing the trash bags in large Dumpsters to be taken to the landfill.
Rosa Contreras, a Graham County Health Department employee, said last year alone, 161,100 pounds of trash was taken to the landfill.
SEACAB founder Jay Rasco, along with Jon Stevens, decided the Gila Valley should participate in the national event back in 2013 and everyone immediately jumped on board.
Graham County Supervisor Danny Smith said the City of Safford, Town of Thatcher, as well as the Town of Pima were participants that first year, along with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Church and Metal Mite Recycling.
The Graham County Health Department, Pastor Ronnie Gonzales, Laura Rogers and Bill Brandau were also key players, he said.
The volunteers target public lands as key areas of cleanup, but they have also organized volunteers to help local neighborhoods, Smith said. Graham County and the towns haul Dumpsters to and from the designated sites.
“When we have residents willing to work and clean up our county, that is right where we want to be, to provide assistance in any way we can,” Smith said. “If you would like to organize your neighbors to clean up your neighborhood please let us know.”
This year, Linden said roughly 30 people have signed up to volunteer, but he expects many more will participate. An illegal dump site in Pima is going to be targeted this year, as well as Thunderbird Estates outside of Safford, Glenn Meadows and an area outside Discovery Park.