LAKELAND, Fla. — Volunteers from all over Lakeland joined together Saturday for an organized community clean-up effort in the North Lake Wire neighborhood.

  • Clean-up organized by Lakeland's Gang Task Force
  • Effort includes partnerships with All Saints Episcopal Church, Dream Center, New Beulah Missionary Baptist Church
  • Clean-ups held quarterly
  • More Polk County stories

Lakeland's Gang Task Force holds the clean-ups quarterly.

Working with community partners such as the Dream Center, All Saints Episcopal Church, and New Beulah Missionary Baptist Church, they brought together about 300 volunteers to pick up trash, clear vacant lots, and paint homes with the help of "Paint Your Heart Out Lakeland."

Arnetha Sirmon was one of the neighborhood's elderly residents who had her house painted.

“It something that I needed did, and I’m glad they volunteered to do it for me,” said Sirmon. 

Meanwhile, resident Johnnie Bowden was overjoyed to receive food from the volunteers.

“It’s real nice because it’s a lot of elderly that needs help," Bowden said. "And they can’t get it. And they folks won’t give it to them, their own people. So somebody else come along and do it and I think it’s really nice."

Several of the volunteers went up and down the streets, handing out flowers and food to those in need, hoping it would lift their spirits. 

“It brings a lot of joy to me," said Michael Spake. "I think this is probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve done since I've been a part of the Lakeland community in the past eight years."

Lakeland Police officers were also on hand to secure the area, and some raked yards.  

Newly sworn-in Police Chief Ruben Garcia said this is an area plagued with drugs and prostitution. He hopes cleaning the area up will improve the neighborhood. 

“Well, it’s certainly not about picking up trash," Garcia explained. "What it is, it’s about picking up people and making people believe in their neighborhood and buying back into the neighborhood and wanting to see it succeed." 

At the end of the neighborhood cleanup, the Salvation Army provided lunch to the volunteers as well as members of the community.