By Rebecca Wu
(KSDK) - The city of East St. Louis is trying to clean up its image in more ways than one. Every Saturday through the end of summer, volunteers will clean up the streets.
Newly elected mayor Alvin Parks, Jr. isn't afraid to make cuts in order to keep weeds from growing in downtown streets.
"When they're high, you have people who want to hide in the weeds and do something not healthy for the citizens," Parks said. "When you have a lot of weeds, it could block stop signs and street corners so cars can't see around them."
An estimated 100 volunteers helped clean up downtown Saturday, including East St. Louis native Dorian McCorkle. If he weren't whacking weeds, he'd be at home beating his drums. But he volunteered after seeing the mayor asking for help on TV.
"I occupy my time to keep me from being in trouble and to show the little kids how to get out and clean up your neighborhood and not destroy your neighborhood also," said McCorkle.
Cleaning up the city is one of two priorities for the mayor. The other is to keep citizens safe by increasing police patrol and stepping up criminal investigations. Those were the things Parks heard over and over again during his campaign for office.
Mike Makhlouf, the manager at Crown Food Mart on Colinsville Street, where volunteers were picking up trash, said he'd never seen anyone cleaning up trash before.
"That's something nice, something different, actually a surprise for everybody," said Makhlouf.
Makhlouf was so happy to see people cleaning the area around his gas station and food mart, he brought them water. He believes the trash keeps away potential customers unfamiliar with the area.
"They think it's a bad area, it's not a nice area. They don't like to stop by. That's why we like to see it clean."
After cleaning up the trash, Parks wants to beautify the city with flowers, trees and fountains. That way East St. Louis not only looks good but feels good.
"There's a sense of pride that you have to reestablish by cleaning up your community," said Parks.
Volunteers estimate they picked up 11 truckloads of trash in just four hours.
They started cleaning downtown but will eventually clean up different parts of East St. Louis throughout the summer. Parks hopes residents will step up when volunteers clean their neighborhood.
The Saturday clean up events will continue each weekend through the summer, except Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.