Across Lorain County, residents picked up shovels and cleaning supplies, spending Saturday morning beautifying their slice of the county as part of Lorain County Pride Day, sponsored by the Lorain County Solid Waste Management District.
While the rain may have held off some volunteers, most groups pushed ahead despite the impending clouds. Community outreach coordinator Brandi Schnell originally had estimated 2,300 volunteers would pitch in on Pride Day. She said she sent out an email late last week, advising groups to wait until the last minute to call off, but she wouldn’t know until Monday how many groups chose to reschedule.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial cleanup
In preparation for next week’s Memorial Day services, Church of the Open Door’s baseball team, alongside veterans and their families, cleaned up the Lorain County Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Amherst.
The memorial’s committee organizes the cleanup to coincide with the county’s Pride Day, but this is the first time the baseball team has joined them, Linda Horvath said. Horvath’s husband, Joe, is a Vietnam veteran and was the 2017 Veteran of the Year. She said with the group from Church of the Open Door coming out, it’s the largest youth turnout they’ve had in the years she’s been involved.
“It’s very hard to maintain this,” she said “… We have been blessed that no one has damaged or done anything to the grounds in 11 years. The men that served and the men that are on that granite, the 98 that were killed in (Vietnam), are respected and still respected to this day, and it’s been about 50 years.”
She said the Amherst City Parks Department cuts the grass, but local veterans maintain the memorial itself. For Saturday, the group pulled weeds, spread mulch, replaced the flags and lined the memorial with 98 flags in preparation for the vigil Saturday.
“We do this every year the weekend before Memorial Day, we have the annual cleanup — spruce it up, clean it up and beautify it so it’s ready for Memorial Day,” she said.
The baseball team came out, in part because head coach Matt Loescher’s father, Ron “Papa” Loescher, is a Vietnam veteran who volunteers his time to maintain the team’s field during baseball season.
“Our baseball field is actually named after my dad, ‘Papa Loescher Field,’ he’s a disabled Vietnam veteran and so we were looking for a project that we could kind of repay him for all the time he puts into our field,” Loescher said. “In fact he has a stone here at the memorial, so our guys thought that this would be a great opportunity to come out and kind of pay back a guy that gives a lot to us, as well as to the community.”
Kris Hudson, the school’s junior varsity coach and a former Marine, said volunteering is good for the students.
“It’s a great experience for them to come out here and actually be able to help support the local veterans in the area and to experience something like this, to see the men and women who’ve lost their lives to protect our freedom here,” Hudson said. “And they’re now helping the other men and women that are still here today to be able … to put a memorial like this back up and running for this coming season and to help get it done in such a timely manner as well.”
Sophomore Josh Zaborawski, 16, agrees.
“It was just really nice for all of us to come together to help out to make it look nice for the veterans and the people who served,” Josh said. “(It’s important) to recognize the loss of lives and the effort put in for all of this that we don’t see in our everyday lives.”
For Horvath, it’s as important the young men learn about the Vietnam War as it is for them to help maintain the memorial.
“They need to know the history about the Vietnam War and that there are Vietnam veterans that are still alive that are getting older … there’s already several that were in this (community) that have passed away or can no longer do it,” Horvath said. “And the ones that are here, they’re in their 70s. So having this baseball team — they said they’ll probably come every year now. This will be their project at the end of their baseball season, which would be wonderful because there’s so many of the vets that just can’t do it anymore.”
United Way spring cleanup
While it wasn’t necessarily part of Lorain County Pride Day, Bill Harper, executive director of United Way of Greater Lorain County, said the organization’s Spring Day of Caring always coincides with the county’s event. The event is a collaboration between United Way of Greater Lorain County, El Centro and Leadership Lorain County.
“It always coincides with Pride Day and it’s just an opportunity for us together to use our volunteers for something and to get them in South Lorain and see all the cool things that are here,” Harper said.
Volunteers worked at El Centro in Lorain to clean up the area around the center, as well as spruce up inside. The group also cleaned up along East 28th Street, picking up trash and tires.
El Centro Executive Director Victor Leandry said the cleanup day not only helps his organization save money that they would have to use on landscaping, it also brings volunteers into South Lorain.
“Entire Lorain, but especially South Lorain, people here have, I think, have been so neglected … in regards to services coming and going and the lack of transportation for them to go other places. And (we) need other people to come and help and see the beauty of the community and help them get that motivation back and that energy back. … I think that events like this help, to make them feel like they’re not alone, that they’re part of the community and that people care for this community.”
Harper said the cleanup area used to be vibrant and growing, but it became neglected as people left. The volunteer opportunity gets people who may have grown up in the area back to Lorain to highlight the positive aspects in the community.
“People really love this area, many of them grew up here, and this gives them the opportunity to do something positive and show people they care still,” Harper said. “… I think that in a lot of ways a lot of the community institutions that we had for years have been kind of stripped away from us (so) this is a great opportunity. People love it, they come every year, they bring their kids. …”
The nonprofit partnerships show how many organizations care for the neighborhood, city and county.
“It shows that we come together, we care for the same cause, we’re out to help the city or the community,” Leandry said.