It was a sunny, faintly humid Saturday morning in downtown Middleburg, ideal weather by August standards. A local real estate agent was showing a home that morning to a Connecticut couple. They asked what was going on in Middleburg referring to the groups of people in yellow safety vests cleaning the sidewalks. The couple was astonished to learn these were local volunteers and not paid contractors. They remarked they hadn’t felt this sense of community in the other area towns they were considering for their new home.

Middleburg Police Chief A.J., Delegate Randy Minchew and Town Administrator Martha semmes
Middleburg Police Chief A.J., Delegate Randy Minchew
and Town Administrator Martha Semmes

That Connecticut couple had just witnessed the first Great Middleburg Clean Up and Scavenger Hunt. I can relate to their surprise. The scene was something out of Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell. Where do you see this these days? Young children draped in a yellow enthusiastically pulling weeds and picking up trash.

Mimi stein and JoAnn Hazard
Mimi Stein and JoAnn Hazard

On arriving, it was clear how many had shown up, more than 45 in fact. The crowd ranged from seventy plus to just over two-years-old. The eager crowd was ready to do some serious work. They’d shown up to clean Middleburg’s streets and sidewalks of weeds, cigarette butts, litter, dog waste and whatever else they found on their assigned route. Police Chief Panebianco gave the safety briefing, and Council Member Bridge Littleton explained the purpose of the cleanup effort, while granola bars and bottled water trickled through the huddled volunteers. We were organized into groups and assigned streets.

Peter Morgan Leonard, Man Behind the Camera and Kim Shelly
Peter Morgan Leonard, Man Behind the Camera
and Kim Shelly

For the next two hours, we worked. Yanking out weeds, spraying those we couldn’t pull, and collaborating to solve scavenger hunt questions. We had fun while doing good. That’s what this community is about. We were just neighbors, friends and locals who showed up for something we care about. There was a shared passion that morning. Passion always yields results. This group certainly did. Fueled by community spirit, it produced staggering results in just two hours.

14 Yard waste bags (30 gallons each) | Equal to filling the bed of a large pickup truck

More than 1,000 cigarette butts | Nearly 10 pounds or 5 liters by volume

4 – 55-gallon bags of recyclables | Enough to pack a high capacity home refrigerator

Team Washington won the Scavenger Hunt with a perfect 10/10 correct answers

The event was such a success Bridge Littleton, an organizer who provided the stylish safety vests – along with Punkin Lee and Peter Leonard-Morgan – says they plan to repeat the cleanup event in April and bi-annually after that to keep Middleburg looking its finest. Most importantly, thank you to everyone who turned out to help. It couldn’t have been done without you.

Thank you to the Go Green and Street Scape Committees along with the Middleburg Futures Group for organizing such a spirited event. The event wouldn’t have been possible without contributions from the following: Middleburg Police for keeping us all safe, Common Grounds for keeping us hydrated, and Salamander Resort for feeding us. Special thanks to Rick Allison of the King Street Oyster Bar for providing 16 gallons of a homemade eco-weed killer and Lynn Kaye for the cigarette recycling.

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