Annual community event helps all ◆ By Mike Hiles
With the Soboba Environmental Department leading the way, tons of waste were collected and properly disposed of during the annual Community Cleanup Day at the Soboba Reservation. Residents were encouraged to bring old furniture, appliances, paint cans and other items they no longer had a need for to the five-hour event on July 23.
"Collection was nonstop until 2 p.m. and even some was dropped off the next day," said Steven Estrada, Environmental Manager for the Soboba Environmental Department that oversees the event. "We had a huge turnout this year. The event has definitely grown since it was started. Residents are taking more advantage of the extra opportunity to dispose of their bulk items."
Estrada said his entire department was involved way in advance of the actual day. Environmental Assistant Michelle Kaliher helped coordinate pick-ups with Public Works, purchased supplies and helped advertise the event to residents. Environmental Specialist Jennifer Salazar also helped coordinate with Public Works on collection and gathering quantities of what needed disposing.
Salazar completed an assessment form for each drop off, marking what was dropped off in order to track the flow of items and to help make projections for next year.
"We take in a variety of household items such as old furniture and plastic toys, which all goes to general waste," she said.
Estrada said the event is important and helpful for the entire Soboba Reservation community.
"Illicit dumping can have very negative impacts on the community and the environment," he said. "Everyone needs to do their part to try to lessen these impacts. Events like this will ensure that items are disposed of correctly."
Three 40-yard bins from CR&R were completely filled with bulk materials made of metal, plastic and wood. Other items were separated into electronic, green and hazardous waste sections, all disposed of by specific vendors such as Southland Junk Removal.
Michele Gonzales pulled up in a large pickup truck filled with items no longer wanted or needed. She said the event helped get her family busy with clearing their one-acre property and said she would probably be making several trips back and forth throughout the day.
Estrada said working closely with Soboba Public Works department is crucial for a successful event. They accepted calls from elders who needed to have items hauled to the cleanup site.
"They have the capacity and equipment to implement trash pick-up at individual homes," he said.
Ray Peterson, who lives at the reservation, has been a Public Works employee for four years. He was busy operating a skip loader that was filled with large items and then dumped into one of the bins that had been delivered for the day. He said the piece of heavy equipment is a multi-purpose tool that is used year-round to help grade land, clear drainage systems, make trenches and help elders with keeping their properties clear of weeds or anything else they need.
"We have about six to eight of our department's workers out here today – everyone lends a helping hand," Peterson said. "I hope this pride of community will rub off on some of these youngsters here today."
Having about 12 Soboba TANF Summer Youth Academy volunteers help throughout the day was not only a plus because more hands were on deck to pitch in but the youth were gaining an awareness of what types of things can be done to keep their community clean and safe.
"TANF youth are always a huge help," Estrada said. "They are always enthusiastic about getting the trash picked up around the area without complaining about the extreme heat and messy work. We are very thankful for their help and interest."
Jessika Greek, an administrative activities assistant with TANF, said the day was deemed a community service day for the youth but it was not mandatory they attend. The dozen that did were ages 12 through 16.
"They learn about volunteering and supporting the Tribe," she said. "We worked closely with Soboba's Environmental Department to schedule the workers where they were most needed."
Asona Arres, 15, was helping out for the third year in a row. As a veteran of the program, she served as an immediate supervisor for some of the newcomers.
"I learn something new each year," she said. "The main thing is that people shouldn't trash their community and should have to clean it up if they do."
Another bright side to the annual cleanup day is that Estrada said there hasn't been as much dumping around the reservation now that residents know there is a viable option.