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Hundreds from Stockton join Atlantic City Earth Day cleanup

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The weather complied last week to help bring hundreds out for an Earth Day cleanup.

Stockton University students, staff and faculty were among the approximately 700 people who joined in the cleanup at nine locations on the beach and throughout the city's six wards.

“A beautiful day brings people out,” said Brian K. Jackson, the chief operating officer of Stockton's Atlantic City campus. “We’re all here with the same mission, and it’s to celebrate the city, clean up our streets and beaches, and keep Atlantic City beautiful.”

Stockton University 1997 graduate Cindy Verderber loves the beach, so it was a perfect fit for her.

“The beach is my favorite place in the world, and we are all here just picking up anything we can find that doesn’t belong,” said Verderber, who lives in Little Egg Harbor Township and is an art teacher at Atlantic Community Charter School in Galloway Township.

The cleanup was followed by the Party in the Park at O’Donnell Park near Stockton’s Atlantic City campus. The event included more than 56 different vendors and community organizations along with a DJ, a live jazz band, food trucks, outdoor games, face painting and an artist and crafters village.

“The event has been very lively," said Gianna Myers, a Stockton senior from Piscataway, Middlesex County.

"I’ve been learning a lot about the local businesses in the community, and it’s been really inspiring to learn how much they’ve grown over the years,” said the business and marketing major. “I think it’s a responsibility for Stockton students, especially of the Atlantic City campus, to give back to the community and to build and grow along with Stockton.”

One of the small businesses set up in the park was Beyond Bubbles, a handcrafted natural soap company that sells body-care products. Last year’s Community Day was the first event owner Ayisha Lee tried to sell her products.

“Atlantic City is my community,” said Lee, who’s also the assistant director of alumni relations at Stockton. “The way the community embraced me and supported my business gave me the confidence to go on and come back again. Take care of the community that takes care of you. I will continue to support Atlantic City the way they have supported me.”

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Chess and Connect Four were two games offered during the Party in the Park that followed the cleanup. (Photo credit: Mark Melhorn/Stockton University)

The Atlantic City Free Public Library used the Party in the Park to debut its Little Library Project. The project will bring books closer to local neighborhoods by installing little libraries in public parks like O’Donnell Park.

“The idea is that this will be the first one, and we’re going to reach out to other neighborhood associations and see if we can get them all around the city,” library Director Robert Rynkiewicz. “We knew the community party would have a big crowd, and it would be a great way to get the word out there.

“Libraries are changing. We don’t just have traditional services anymore," he added. "I think we’re a lot more embedded into the community, and we want to be.”

There was no age limit to those helping.

About 30 Sovereign Avenue School students woke up early Saturday morning to clean up around Pete Pallitto Field and the grass walkway along Sunset Avenue near the bay.

“They all came bright and early this morning ready to work, and everyone has had smiles on their faces, and they are having a good time doing it,” said Linda Mattner, a fourth-grade teacher at Sovereign Avenue who’s also the National Junior Honor Society adviser. “The kids really take pride because it’s their neighborhood and they see the results after they clean up.”

(PHOTO AT TOP: Members of the Stockton University field hockey team collect trash in the Lower Chelsea section of Atlantic City. Photo by Mark Melhorn/Stockton University)

author

Lynda Cohen

BreakingAC founder who previously worked in newspapers for more than two decades. She is an NJPA award-winner and was a Stories of Atlantic City fellow.

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