Starting in the morning on Saturday at the old river bed or slough near Putnam and Kessing streets in Porterville, 75 community volunteers from the Paar Center along with Director Rudy Pina, the Porterville Rescue Mission and others got together with organizer Darin Garrett, of Jake’s Roofing, and cleaned about 1,500 pounds of trash from the slough.

By the end of the day 6,000 pounds — three tons — of trash had been cleaned.

While many were busy cleaning, more volunteers stopped by and donned gloves and started picking up trash and putting it in bags. “It’s great that there are people willing to work and help us out,” said Garrett, “me and my wife, Celeste, have been helping out for years, and we want to show the community. Let’s clean up Porterville. And make it a nicer place.”

A young lady who lived nearby, in a tent in the slough, was excited about the clean up, and started to help immediately. She said she’s been living there for about a year, but has been homeless for 3 years. 

Her name is Bobbi Hunt, and she said, “This is so nice that people are helping clean up. This used to be a clean and nice place. But people come through and steal my stuff, leave trash about, and make a mess. I’d like to have my own place, but it shouldn’t matter if I don’t have four walls. My tent should be my own place. I had permission from the hospital and the (Family Health Care Network) resource center. When it became a mess the people from the resource center realized it wasn’t me making all the mess.

“The resource center has helped me, they are wonderful.” 

Bonnie also said a woman who serves in the Coast Guard has helped and encouraged her, helping her “immensely.”

And Lisa from the Coast Guard helped and encouraged me. She helped me immensely.” 

She said being homeless is terrifying, and she wishes people would respect her space. Bobbi said she has friends and Touchpoint Church who have been helpful and she said people generally care.

“If we’d help each other each day, people wouldn’t want,” Hunt said.

“I’d like to thank the community for coming out this morning and helping to clean up the slough,” Garrett said. “We’d like to thank the volunteers and sponsors.”

But by the end of day, after working on about half a mile or more of the slough, Garrett said they’d cleaned more than 6,000 pounds of trash.

“I couldn’t believe all the trash that was there,” said Carlos Marrero, Garrett’s uncle. Marrero and his wife Maria are visiting Porterville from Los Baños.

“They did a really fast and excellent job of the clean up. What impressed me was that they all got together, worked together, and got it done,” Marrero said.

“We came down to visit and to help, we do whatever we can, since my wife is from Porterville.”

“I’m so proud of everyone coming together to help,” said Maria. “It sometimes takes the community to make the difference.”  

“There are people who want to help and clean up the river. But it takes organization, sponsors, and equipment,” said Garrett.

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