MWRD - Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

04/24/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/24/2024 14:16

MWRD Calumet Community Partnership Council, Environmental Justice section spearhead Earth Day Cleanup

MWRD Calumet Community Partnership Council, Environmental Justice section spearhead Earth Day Cleanup

April 24, 2024

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To celebrate Earth Day on April 22, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago's (MWRD's) Calumet Community Partnership Council (CPC) and MWRD staff joined their neighbors from People for Community Recovery, Golden Gate Homeowner's Association, Aldridge Elementary School, Community and After School Youth Guidance Resource, 9th Ward Ald. Anthony A. Beale, 10th Ward Ald. Peter Chico, City of Chicago Community Safety Coordination Center and Smiley's Convenience Store to beautify Hazel Johnson EJ Way on the Far South Side.

Volunteers from the People for Community Recovery, the MWRD Environmental Justice team and other partners were out spring cleaning along Hazel Johnson EJ Way near the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant.

The CPC spearheaded the Earth Day Cleanup initiative in alignment with a goal of promoting sustainability and preserving the ecological integrity of the area. Volunteers removed litter, debris, weeds and invasive buckthorn that was present in various locations in the neighborhood surrounding the MWRD's Calumet Water Reclamation Plant, 400 E. 130th St., and Aldridge Elementary School, 630 E. 131st St.

The neighborhood was home to Hazel Johnson, known as the "mother of the environmental justice movement." She worked to improve the living conditions in public housing, devoting her time, energy and services to her Chicago neighbors from the 1970s up until her death in 2011.

In 2015, the Illinois General Assembly named 130th Street from the Bishop Ford Freeway (I-94) to State Street "Hazel Johnson EJ Way" to recognize her dedication. Now her daughter Cheryl continues the effort.

"Our partnership with the Calumet Community Partnership Council underscores our commitment to environmental stewardship and community engagement," said MWRD President Kari K. Steele. "By working together, we can affect meaningful change and preserve the natural resources that sustain our communities. I encourage everyone to celebrate Earth Day every day to preserve the planet for generations to come."

Participants of all ages engaged in hands-on conservation efforts, fostering a sense of camaraderie and environmental responsibility. In addition to the cleanup activities, the Earth Day event included educational workshops, interactive exhibits, and guest speakers at Aldridge Elementary School to highlight the importance of environmental conservation and sustainable practices.

Cheryl Johnson, seated, surveys the progress on the Earth Day Cleanup with MWRD Commissioner Precious Brady-Davis and Commissioner Daniel Pogorzelski.

"The success of the Calumet Community Partnership Council Earth Day Cleanup serves as a testament to the power of collective action and community involvement in addressing environmental challenges," said MWRD Commissioner Precious Brady-Davis. "We honored Hazel Johnson's legacy this Earth Day by helping to clean up EJ Way."

The CPC was born out of the MWRD's ambitious Strategic Plan. It serves as a conduit between the Calumet WRP and its neighboring community to position the MWRD as a critical community asset and to ensure that the MWRD is a responsive neighbor and inclusive partner.

"We are thrilled by the overwhelming support and enthusiasm demonstrated by the community for our Earth Day Cleanup," said Deloris Lucas, a member of the MWRD's Calumet Community Partnership Council and president of the Golden Gate Homeowners Association Inc. "This event exemplifies the power of collaboration and collective action in fostering a cleaner, greener future for our beloved Calumet region."

Deloris Lucas, a member of the MWRD's Calumet Community Partnership Council and President of the Golden Gate Homeowners Association, is seated.

"A special thanks to our community partners at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the city of Chicago for orchestrating and providing supplies that our 5-8th grade scholars were able to use to participate in cleaning around the school," said Youth Guidance Resource Coordinator Christopher Montgomery. "Each grade level took a different side of the building and worked together as a team to complete the cleaning. Thank you to everyone that made today such a great success."

The MWRD's Environmental Justice section coordinates the work of the CPC with the MWRD Office of Public Affairs. The section, created in 2022, addresses equity and justice within the MWRD and engages with the communities that the MWRD serves by establishing partnerships with both local government and community groups. The MWRD is currently organizing a similar CPC for its Stickney Water Reclamation Plant to engage with more residents and businesses the MWRD serves.

Students and staff at Aldridge Elementary School were joined by the MWRD and area residents to clean up the area on Earth Day.
MWRD's Environmental Justice staff took a moment to show 10th Ward Alderman Peter Chico how cleanup efforts were progressing.
MWRD Community Partnership Council (CPC) members Brendan Troutman (left) and Sara Brown (far right) did their part to clean up Hazel Johnson EJ Way. CPC member Mark Fraider participated but is not shown.
In conjunction with Aldridge Elementary School Principal Afua Agyeman-Badu and Assistant Principal LaShonda Hicks-Curry, MWRD Public Affairs Specialist - Bilingual Rebeca Fernandez demonstrated for students how pollutants can impact the water environment.
MWRD Human Resources Manager, Environmental Justice section, Ed Coleman pitches in with debris cleanup.
(L) MWRD Environmental Research Technician Megan Haessly and MWRD Principal Environmental Scientist Dr. Theresa Johnston helped with the cleanup.
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