WHITEHALL, Ohio (WCMH) — A group of central Ohio first responders spent Earth Day cleaning their city and connecting with their community.  

Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds joined police officers and firefighters in Whitehall for cleanup efforts that they say will grow relationships and further build their community. 

“It’s really cool to see the community come together and take pride in what it looks like,” says K.J. Watts, an Assistant Chief with the Whitehall Division of Fire. 

On Thursday, the team of volunteers got their hands dirty planting, mulching, and cleaning up trash along city entrances. 

“As a police department, one of our goals is to be out in the community; being involved in the community and interacting in the community, and what better way than this?” encourages Sgt. Jon Earl with Whitehall Police. 

City leaders say with a busy community events schedule and growing youth sports programs, their parks will be used more this summer than ever before. 

“We’re very involved with the parks, it’s important,” says Earl. “We attend everything they have going on just to have our officers out there with the public as much as we can.” 

Beautification efforts have been a focus for the city’s parks department for several years. 

It’s an opportunity for first responders to connect with community members in a different setting. 

“Knowing everybody when we run on them for their emergencies, and having that intimate connection, and that small town feel is just super important,” Watts emphasizes. “Making the community look good makes everything safe as well.” 

While for volunteers, it’s a lesson for the future, and a chance to teach their kids the importance of investment in the community. 

“It’s really important to me as a mom to teach them good stewardship of our community, and how to be a good neighbor and take care of the place we live,” says Ashley Williams, a Whitehall resident. 

Cleanup efforts will continue Saturday, April 23 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. 

If you’d like to volunteer, you can sign up here

Volunteers can also show up to 4924 Etna Rd. in the John Bishop Park or 402 N. Hamilton Rd. at the Whitehall Community Park.