LIMA — There have been snakes, plenty of mud, and even a girl with pink hair and a tail, but nothing is frightening enough to keep Phyllis West and Ruthie Mays from chipping in on river cleanup day.Every year, almost since the event began 19 years ago, West and Mays have shown up to help with the annual effort to clean up the Ottawa River.“They are always here, always willing to help. They make this work,” said cleanup Chairwoman Connie Miller.The two women began volunteering — 17 years ago for West, 14 for Mays — as part of a group from Riverside North Neighborhood Association. Through the years, other group members fell away, but West and Mays always returned.“I just look forward to it every year, I like seeing all the people. I love seeing the kids. It's something I just like to do,” West said.“I like the camaraderie, everybody just working together on something,” Mays added.The women join a group of nearly a dozen volunteers charged with organizing the rush of nearly 300 volunteers who descend on the Red Cross Chapter House every year. They take permission forms, hand out T-shirts and work gloves, and give the workers their marching orders. On a typical cleanup day, workers will cover six miles of riverbank, pulling an estimated eight ton of trash, tires and other debris from the water and banks.“I used to go out and help clean, but the last time I did that I slid down the bank. If it wasn't for my grandson and [fellow Northside Neighborhood volunteer] David Adams, I'd still be down there,” West said. Through the years, West and Mays have seen plenty of odd things come out of the river. Volunteers have pulled mannequins, coolers, even car parts out in years past. But for Mays, its the wildlife that she recalls.“They brought a snake in here once. That was too much,” Mays said.The event is sponsored by Lima-Allen County Neighborhoods in Partnership, with help from the city of Lima, the Ottawa River Coalition, and Keep Allen County Beautiful. Cold weather and calls for rain made for a smaller crowd Saturday, but the two remain convinced the annual effort is making a difference.“I have no doubt about it. You walk along that river, especially with the River Walk now, it's just so nice. It's definitely made a big difference,” West said.
Tara Cutlip, 21 and pregnant with her second child, was shot and killed Saturday in her Bahama Drive home. Loved ones gather in front of Tara's home to remember her and speak out against domestic violence.