ARC Direct Support Supervisor Ray Murtagh, right, holds the bag for Angie French of the ARC’s Home Services Department at Trinity Park in Plattsburgh as part of the Green-up Day city clean up.
As the snow receded in downtown Plattsburgh, places like Trinity Park became marred by the presence of litter and leaves blowing around like urban tumbleweed.
Yes, spring is here, and the Clinton County Advocacy and Resource Center teamed up with Plattsburgh State’s newest fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, to do some spring cleaning on Saturday, April 20.
The Earth-Day inspired Green-up Day was the first of its kind for the two organizations.
It was also a chance for the ARC, which serves individuals with developmental disabilities throughout the region, and the Eta Kappa chapter of Pi Kappa Phi, which was installed at Plattsburgh State in November 2012, to begin a partnership of volunteering in the community.
Volunteering in Plattsburgh might be new to the fraternity, but it’s standard procedure for the ARC.
“The people we serve have a lot of interest in giving back to the community through volunteerism,” said Mike Clausen of the ARC, who helped organize the event. “This is not just a one day a year thing. We have people volunteering at the Humane Society, soup kitchens and the Tiger Scouts. We have volunteers all over the place.”
Clausen consulted the City of Plattsburgh Department of Public Works, who recommended some projects for Green-up Day.
Those projects included picking up leaves and litter, and doing some light painting underneath the railroad bridge that spans the Saranac River downtown.
One of the volunteers with the ARC, Marvin Desrocher, took part in the painting.
“Everybody’s been spraying graffiti down here, and I thought, ‘why not paint over it?’” Desrocher said.
Desrocher carefully ran a paint roller over the unsightly wordage, making the scenery for those entering or leaving Plattsburgh by train a little more welcoming.
He took a step back, admiring his own handiwork, and said he’d be happy to participate in Green-up Day again.
The level of enthusiasm was the same at Trinity Park, where representatives of the ARC, some of the individuals they serve, and members of Pi Kappa Phi worked shoulder to shoulder using rakes to scoop debris into plastic bags.
“We decided we wanted to look into local opportunities, so we reached out to the ARC,” said Victor Delregno Jr., president of the Eta Kappa Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi. “We’re the only (national) fraternity to own and operate our own philanthropy, Push America, which aims to change the way society views people with disabilities.”
Delregno pointed out that, when working to change peoples’ perceptions, even seemingly trivial distinctions, like saying ‘people with disabilities’ instead of ‘disabled people,’ are important.
“The person always comes before the disability,” Delregno said. “We’re all the same. Some of us are born a little different, but that’s not a reason to ostracize people or to stay away from them.”
Delregno said he has a cousin who is autistic, and that being close to her while growing up is what inspired him to do more to help individuals with disabilities.
Pi Kappa Phi will be participating in the Autism Awareness Walk on Saturday, April 27 at the Plattsburgh Oval.
The walk has already raised almost $10,000 to support local programs and increase awareness about autism in the community.
Registration for the event begins at 10 a.m., and the walk begins at 11 a.m.
To pre-register, sponsor a walker, or make a donation, visit aaneny.org.
Rounding out a busy weekend, Pi Kappa Phi is also helping the North Country Down Syndrome Association throw a bowling jamboree Sunday, April 28 from 1-5 p.m. at North Bowl Lanes in Plattsburgh.
The entry fee, which includes shoe rentals, is $60 for teams of four and $18 for individuals. It is also $18 per person for teams of two or three people.
To register, email the North Country Down Syndrome Association at firstname.lastname@example.org.