Volunteers from three different walks of life came together Wednesday with a common goal – helping clean up debris that has piled up in wooded areas on Stag Hill Road in Mahwah.
About 80 kids and teenagers were on hand Wednesday for JCC Cares, the service component of their competition. Over 1,000 Jewish students from across the United States, Canada, Israel, Latin America and the United Kingdom are currently in Rockland to compete in the Olympics-like sporting tournament.
A component of the games, which organizers say are played to preserve the Jewish community and which , is community service.
“I was looking online and came across some organizations that were doing environmental clean-ups around the area, so I reached out to the town to see if our kids could get involved,” JCC member Rhonda Margolin said. The town connected her with the and volunteers from the Ramapough Lenape Nation.
The task for the 110 volunteers was to pick up trash surrounding Silver Lake.
“We found all sorts of stuff – from tires to the top of a Jeep, old toilet bowls and pieces of furniture,” MEVO founder Eric J. Fuchs-Stengel said. “Having this many people here has made this the biggest clean-up MEVO has been involved with yet, so this is great for us. And, we were able to pull a lot of trash out of here. I’m thinking people can’t possibly replenish it as fast as we are picking it up.”
Ramapough Chief Dwayne Perry, who attended the event with Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet and a team of about a dozen native volunteers, said he thinks most of the trash that has accumulated around the lake is “from years of build up. There used to be four of five houses around the lake. When they were knocked down [in the 1980’s and early 1990’s], a lot of the debris from those homes was never properly disposed of.”
He said the clean-up was a “big step in highlighting a major problem in all forested areas of Bergen County, a lot of them need to be cleaned up. We’ve had a lot of people dishonoring the earth by tossing their beer bottles and recliners in the woods. This put a good dent in fixing that problem.”
Laforet, who helped coordinate the multi-group effort, said he feels this type of event is a “great thing” for Mahwah and Stag Hill. “This is the first time that all of these different groups came together with a common goal, and our community is benefitting from that.”
The volunteers benefitted too. Sam Fineberg, a 12-year-old JCC athlete from Teaneck, said he was surprised to find the volunteer activity was “a lot of fun. It’s a way to help people and show we care.”