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Resident-led initiative set to clean up Lehigh

May 17, 2018
By ALEX GALANTE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Last year, a concerned Lehigh Acres resident decided she was fed up with driving by the littered roads in her community, so she did something about it.

Her name is Elena Corradino, a mother of two who reached out to Lehigh Acres Community Watch in July 2017 to ask if she could get involved with cleaning up the streets of Lehigh. Too little too late, Corradino had found that the Community Watch no longer held community cleanups. Determined to make a difference, she worked with Community Watch Director Steve McGiffin and member Kristin Schultz to resurrect the Cleanup Lehigh initiative.

"I got inspired while driving my sons to school in the morning. I would always see the garbage on the side of the road, but I had my son and my kindergartener in the car so I was not able to stop and pick up the garbage," said Corradino, who took to Facebook shortly after to research if any other groups were already doing something about the litter problem.

Article Photos

Maria Elena Corradino, Steve McGiffin (who directs Lehigh Acres Neighborhood Watch), Tiffany, Jo Ann Oien (in the back, waving), Maddie Magnant (pink vest), in the back James Ctelbach, in front Mike Magnant (orange vest), Jennifer Waters. Kneeling : Fred, The Trash Talking Dog (Mike Magnant’s dog), Raymond, Todd, Kristin Schultz, Katie Dombi, Ann Kelly (Crime Prevention Specialist from LCSD), Daniel Brown, and the four men at the end are with DOT.


She found a Facebook group focused on "improving Lehigh," which then connected her to McGiffin. From there, Corradino organized a new cleanup group, gaining the sponsorship of the Lehigh Community Watch, a partner with the Lee County Sheriff's Office. Corradino began organizing community cleanups through a Facebook group called "Cleanup Events Lehigh Acres." Since then, she has been able to hold three successful cleanup events over the past year.

"I am hoping this will motivate people to clean up their neighborhoods on their own, and not wait for us each time to get organized. If you feel like you need to clean up this weekend, then just do it," said Corradino, with a no-nonsense attitude. She explains acting sooner is better because the trash can become more scattered as time passes.

"Landscapers will sometimes mow over trash, causing a hundred little pieces of trash, making it more difficult to clean. In hindsight, it would have been much easier to pick up that one piece of trash when someone first saw it."

The cleanups are being scheduled every several months. Residents can find information on the Facebook page about participating in the "Adopt a Road" program through the Department of Transportation. To encourage communal environmentalism, DOT will assign a road chosen by a small group of people, as well as provide trash bags and garbage pick-up sticks, and even dispose of the garbage bags at the site of the cleanup.

"Complaining doesn't solve the problem. If we care enough to have clean streets, we have to help," said Corradino, who even put environmentalism into perspective from a taxpayer's point of view.

"Especially in Lehigh. Our taxes aren't high like they are in other cities, so we cannot expect for everything to be done for us," she said. "The country does a lot for us already! In gated communities, they pay employees to pick up the trash and it looks so pretty, neat and clean. So if people want to live in a clean neighborhood, it's up to us."

Corradino is all about protecting the environment. However, she can't do it alone, which is why she reignited this small local movement.

"Today was a success," she said of the Saturday, May 12, cleanup effort, which took place on the corner of Ida Avenue, S., and 23rd Street, S.W. Seventeen people arrived to help, including the DOT, which disposed of the trash.

Daniel Brown, one of the cleanup participants, is out there daily cleaning the Lehigh roads. Lehigh Watch Director McGiffin cleans up weekly, as well as his colleague, Schultz. Jennifer Waters and her grandchildren are also frequently cleaning up her neighborhood.

"Something cute about Maddie, she's set herself the goal of cleaning up 90 bags from the roads, she's, I believe, on bag 31," said Corradino of Maddie Magnant, one of the youth participants.

Community cleanup is a great way to get your kids involved, she said, but the group urges parents deciding to bring children to make their kids' safety the priority focus during cleanup. The DOT advises only children ages 14+ should partake in cleanup.

"This is an attractive way to teach your children environmental protection, or really just to be good citizens," said Corradino, who was originally born and raised in Ecuador. She works alongside her husband Pete Corradino, who runs the Everglades Day Safari, and are both advocates for Florida's tropical ecosystem.



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