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ON THE SCENE: Volunteers spend day cleaning Keene

May 25, 2017
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

On Saturday, May 20, more than 60 volunteers from ages 5 to 85 were volunteering their time to keep Keene clean for the residents and visitors of the town and its three hamlets.

Some, like the small army of kids cleaning cars and selling baked goods in the Keene Central School parking lot, were doing it to raise money to cover the cost of visiting the Great Escape in Lake George. Others were cleaning parks and yards as a way of giving back to the community.

The inspiration for much of this is the late Homer Boutte, who died tragically 14 years ago. The year before his death, after returning from two years of service work for his church - participating in a program similar to AmeriCorps - Homer had some time on his hands before heading off to college and approached then town Supervisor Tom Both about volunteering his service to spruce up the town. Both agreed to provide rakes, shovels, and bags and Homer rounded up former schoolmates to pitch in.

Article Photos

Volunteers help clean Rivermede Park in the town of Keene Saturday, May 20.
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

That was 15 years ago, and the Clean Keene event was born.

"It was Homer's idea to approach Tom Both," said Alice Boutte. "Tom suggested he start with Point Park; the land, recently donated to the town, was so full of brush that people couldn't see where the two rivers came together. So Homer and his friends cleaned out the brush the first year. The second year, which would have been 2003, they had planned to put in some walkways as they were proud of what they had started and wanted to finish the job.

"But Homer had a tragic fall at Roaring Brook Falls and died. So his classmates decided to put in the walkways in his honor, and then it just kept going."

Earlier in the month, students from the school picked up litter along Route 73 and the side streets of Keene and Keene Valley. That task accomplished enabled the Clean Keene gang to focus on providing yard work services for senior citizens and three town parks, plus Norton Cemetery.

Volunteers met at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Holt House getting their work assignments from Karen Stoltz and Ellen Dubois, gathering again for a luncheon donated by the Noonmark Diner, ADK Cafe, Cedar Run, SubAlpine Cafe and the town of Keene, which paid for the submarine sandwiches made by the Valley Grocery.

"I'm just helping Alice and helping commemorate Homer," said Stoltz. "Homer was a good friend of mine. He babysat my son Kevin for many years. He was such a sweet boy. He was a very nice young man and a great babysitter. I'm also involved because I notice litter and like gardening. That's the basics. I think it's important to help maintain our little parks and to make sure the town stays clean."

Ellen Dubois and Marcy Neville led a team at Point Park. Tom Dubois, who started at Point Park, lead one that pulled more than seven bags of trash and three old car tires out of the ravines on either side of the upper part of Norton Cemetery. Betsy Thomas-Train took on Ruth's part, which included transplanting day lilies from Susan Doolittle's yard, while others led teams to a half dozen homes of senior citizens.

"I'm volunteering because the community has supported me so much with everything I do and all my extracurricular activities, the trips we take, and our school," said Brian, a student at Keene Central assisting Thomas-Train. "So I thought it would be a nice way to give back to the community that's helped our school and us through so much."

"It's nice to help the community and give back," said Miles, working with Neville. "I don't usually garden, but it's fun."

"I'm having a delightful time," said Harry, and international student from England.

Meanwhile, Keene Central School's Dean of Students Harry Fine had approximately a dozen students washing cars, a half dozen out flagging drivers to get their cars washed, and about a similar number selling baked goods.

"This is the annual car wash for the middle school," said Fine. "The Middle School Student Council organizes it. It's their big fundraiser for their annual trip to the Great Escape right after finals are over. I've got quite an army here. It's great. You need to use that long pole brush to get on top (this as an aside to a student scrubbing my car). We work hard. Come mid-morning they've got it down; the teamwork is unreal."

Hard was tackling Nick Frechette's great white whale, the over-sized pickup she uses for farm chores like hauling hay, manure, brush, tools, and whatever else.

"It had a lot of horse hair and slobber on it," she said of the challenge she gave the kids. "They did a great job, so I gave them and extra five dollars. I bring my truck here every year. It always needs to be cleaned by now. I'm very satisfied with their work; it's as clean as the day I drove it off the lot!"

"This is car number two or me," said Dimitra Dreyer. "Our backyard butts up to the school, so we're just swapping cars. It's perfect, plus my daughter is one of the ones washing the cars. It all works out. Plus they are selling gluten-free baked products. I'm very impressed and very pleased, and then my daughter will go off to the Great Escape. She's motivated. She set her alarm for 6:30 this morning."

At noon I caught up with Alice as the teams poured into the Holt House to get their well-earned lunch.

"It was a great success," said Alice. "It's always a great success. We always seem to get the work done. It's amazing how people just show up. Some who sign up end up not being able to make it and others arrive with no advance notice. It's a bit of a spontaneous happening every year. The weather has always been good. We've never been rained out."



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