By Karen Hutchinson-Talaski

Staff writer

HERMISTON — Even though below freezing temperatures invaded the Hermiston area Saturday morning, nearly 47 volunteers worked to clean-up the neighborhood behind Pizza Hut in Hermiston.

Part of Head Start's Free To Grow program, the Neighborhood Revitalization took place without a hitch, says Shannon Jackson, Free to Grow coordinator.

"We filled eight dumpster and eight truckloads of appliances and scrap metal," Jackson said.

"It is amazing how great the neighborhood looks," Jackson added.

The response from the neighborhood, which is bordered by Beebe Street to the south, Highway 395 to the east, Elm Street to the north and the railroad tracks to the west, has been positive, Jackson said.

"By and large, the response has been positive," Jackson said, "About half the people who helped clean up were from the neighborhood."

Helping each other is what Neighborhood Revitalization is all about, says Lt. Greg Anderson from the Hermiston Police Department.

"I am personally encouraged," Anderson said, "because law enforcement rarely gets to see the positive side of neighborhoods. To see the community come together as a whole, it's neat."

Rocky Heights Principal Denny Eygabroad echoed Anderson's remarks.

"One thing I like about Hermiston," Eygabroad said, "is its ability to come together and help each other out. This is really a transformation."

Arnie Baker, a homeowner in the neighborhood, was happy the volunteers were there. Volunteers helped him tear down his old wood fence to make way for a new chain link fence.

"This will be so much better," Baker said, "I am glad for the help."

Anderson said homeowners started cleaning up on Friday, in anticipation of Saturday's event.

"They are positively motivated," Anderson said, "It's great to see them come together."

Despite of Head Start's door-to-door campaign, there was some resistance to the help. An 80-year-old man did not want anyone to cut the dead branches on his trees or help clear up brush accumulated for years.

"It took a lot of talking to get him to let us help him," Anderson said.

The man finally allowed volunteers on his property, but he kept a sharp eye out to be sure they didn't do anything but clean up his yard.

Jackson says that residents Mario and David were instrumental in getting the neighborhood involved.

"Mario really helped get people motivated," Jackson said, "David was the one who talked the 80-year-old man into letting volunteers on his property."

While volunteers and neighbors worked on the neighborhood, clean-up, children in the neighborhood were entertained by videos and an inflatable castle.

Snacks, coffee, hot chocolate and water were provided for the children and volunteers. The Hermiston Breakfast Kiwanis Club provided lunch.

Jackson says there will need to be another clean-up day because the volunteers were only able to clean up debris and trash from yards, not do cosmetic work like painting.

"There was a lot of work done, but we know we have a lot more to do," Jackson said.

The next step for the Neighborhood Revitalization will take place in the weeks ahead, Jackson says.

"Domingo (from Head Start) will be going door-to-door to see how things are going," Jackson said, "We may be done with this part, but we still have lots more to do."

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