EAST PEORIA — The smell of trash on East Peoria's riverfront was strong Friday morning.
Members of the city’s Green Team spent two-and-a-half hours there sorting through disposables and picking up waste left behind by attendees of Thursday’s annual fireworks show.
Lori Wolff has spent the last 10 years coming out after the festivities to clean up after people. On one of her first excursions, before she joined Green Team, the East Peoria resident was alone with piles of trash all around her.
"The day I came down it was very windy," Wolff said. "This was before the city started bringing recycling containers down. If you could imagine, all the trash was overflowing. Since it was so windy most of the trash was going into the river, which just devastated me.”
Wolff tried picking up the trash by herself, but she says a police officer who came by accused her of scavenging.
Now, every year more people help and the city sets aside resources to help decrease their residents’ mess. Wolff joined the Green Team seven years ago and since then members have helped clean the riverfront.
This year, both Green Team volunteers and East Peoria employees worked side-by-side.
Recycling bins have been added along the riverfront, which has decreased the amount of trash on the ground, according to Green Team leader Bob Jorgensen.
He and the other volunteers spent most of the morning focusing on separating trash from recyclables. City employees brought most of the bins over in the shade for Jorgensen and his volunteers.
“Last year we had around eight or nine people volunteer to help clean up,” Jorgensen said."... We would love to have more people come down and be involved."
Participation in the group gradually has grown over the 11 years members have been doing work around the city.
East Peorian Ashley Matzenbacher joined the group this past April. Matzenbacher helped create a new logo for the group and has since increased visibility online, including a Green Team Instagram page.
“I found the Green Team after searching for environmental groups in the area and found Bob’s number,” Matzenbacher said. “It was very grassroots.”
Matzenbacher spent the morning welcoming new volunteers with buckets and other equipment in park parking lot behind Walmart.
“The goal today is to not only help pick up but get more volunteers to set up more events,” Matzenbacher said.
One such new volunteer was area artist Jessica McGhee.
“It’s awesome, I mean, it’s gross,” McGhee said. “It’s disappointing. It is kind of a crappy way to celebrate the place you love.”
For the past two years, she's been using garbage, especially bright plastics, to create art pieces.
For those interested in joining the group, Jorgensen’s email is email@example.com.