The clouds were threatening Sunday morning, but that didn’t stop Ferri Middle School sixth graders Giovanni Gonzalez and Anthony Mandarelli from organizing a group of friends to clean up the wooded area next to the Johnston High School football field. Before the skies opened up just after noon, the volunteers had filled several dozen bags of trash and debris.
Gonzalez first had the idea when walking by the field.
“We were just walking by and we realized how bad it looked. I wanted to make it look nice,” he said.
He enlisted the help of his good friend Mandarelli, who signed on immediately. Taking care of his surroundings is something Mandarelli worries about.
“We thought it was important for the environment,” he said. “It could add to global warming, and birds going and eating things that they’re not supposed to and getting sick, and pollution.”
Tackling the task could have seemed daunting with the amount of litter and debris covering the hill behind the bleachers, but Mandarelli said they were committed to the cause.
“I knew as much work as we had to do, it would be worth it,” he said.
When Mayor Joseph Polisena stopped by to see how the students and their families were coming along, he was impressed with the results.
“I thought it was fantastic. It truly shows the dedication and commitment of the citizens of our town, especially the younger citizens. That’s what makes this town so great,” he said. “I was impressed. They worked very hard.”
Lisa Gonzalez was impressed too, and is especially proud of her son for volunteering to give up his time on a weekend to do something good for the community.
“I’m so proud of him. I’m proud of all the kids who showed up,” she said. “The fact that they did this at this age, it’s guiding them in the right direction.”
“They worked so hard and so long,” she added.
Lisa says she and her husband, Johnston Police officer Edward Gonzalez, expect nothing less from their son, who has always been a conscientious person.
Looking forward, Giovanni Gonzalez said he would likely revisit the site for more cleanups in the future.
“We’ve got to do more work, I think,” he said. “We should take care of it so people can enjoy it without having to see trash.”
Helping with the cleanup were: Cynde Plante, Chrystal Leary, Jeff Mandarelli, Sue Mandarelli, Stephanie Mandarelli, Lauri Silvia, Isabella DiRocco, Pasquale DiRocco and Thornton students Taylor and Justin Powell. Food and materials were also donated by: Johnston High School Athletic Director Gary Mazzie, the Johnston Parks and Recreation Department, Taso’s, Dominoes on Hartford Avenue, The Original Italian Bakery, Minuteman Press and Thomas Thomaidis from Wells Fargo.
For future visitors to the area, Mandarelli reminded them to throw litter into trashcans and to respect the public area.
“I think we did a pretty good job cleaning it up and I hope it stays that way for a long time,” he said.