College Volunteers Spruce Up North Gulfport

Melanie Der was sitting on the edge of a muddy ditch. Her job was to grab tires found in some woods and toss them along Magnolia Avenue.

"I knew we'd break a sweat, but not tires," the recent college graduate said.

Der volunteered to clean up north Gulfport because "one of my friends asked me if I wanted to help out." When she said yes, she had no idea helping out would entail pulling so many buried tires out of the muddy ditch. Despite the mess, Der said she was happy to be in north Gulfport,

"As long as we're just helping out some."

To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, the University of Maryland clean up crew started on Martin Luther King Boulevard. And then, the volunteers spread out to small side streets.

For graduate student Derrick Treichler, this was his second post Katrina clean up trip. His first encounter with hurricane debris was in New Orleans back in March.

"There's unfortunately not a whole lot of difference," he said as he looked at the piles of debris covering the side of Amazon Street. "To not see a whole lot of change in that nine month period of time since I was in New Orleans is kind of, it's kind of depressing to a certain extent. But at the same time, it's nice to be able to do something about it."

It was nice for the volunteers. It was even nicer for a north Gulfport community that often has more than its share of trash littering its streets. William Martin is the supervisor for the area.

"I see a community basically getting a facelift," he said. "Hopefully it will grow from that and we'll begin to keep our communities clean."

Bagging trash is the quickest way to spruce up north Gulfport. But how do community leaders get the clean up to last? Behind the scenes, they're constantly meeting. What they're discussing will have a profound impact on what this area looks like next week for the Martin Luther King celebrations, and what it looks like far into the future.

Derrick Evans heads up the Turkey Creek Community Initiatives group.

"This is actually the gateway to the city and to the coast," he said. "It would make a much better impression to outsiders if this place was as clean as we're getting it this week."

Evans sees a great future for the area around Martin Luther King Boulevard.

"I do. And it starts with finishing up the debris clean up that was created by Hurricane Katrina," he said. "It's fitting we think that on sunrise on Monday morning, there will be a clean Martin Luther King Boulevard, and that we demonstrate the living legacy of Dr. King's commitment to service."

This week, that service is exemplified by dozens of college students who are picking up trash that litters north Gulfport.