A spirit of caring and a love for the Loyalsock Valley were the common threads that tied together the volunteers who turned out Saturday for the second organized effort to help remove debris from the flood-ravaged Loyalsock Creek.
The first cleanup, held March 24, drew more than 420 volunteers who removed almost 63 tons of man-made debris and 140 tires from four sites along the creek, according to Elisabeth Lynch McCoy, project director of event organizer Clinton County CleanScapes.
This time around, there were about 150 volunteers, but the love and respect for the creek and determination to see it returned to its former beauty was no less obvious.
Volunteers, among them Jim Parsons, right, load a pickup truck with lumber left behind from last fall's flood.
"It's a paradise, a Pennsylvania paradise," Plunketts Creek Township resident Lyn Alsted said of the creek. "So many of us grew up here. Now we're adults. It's our turn to help pull it back because we love it so."
Saturday's cleanup focused on three sites. Additionally, a mobile cleanup group worked its way down Route 87 from Barbours, cleaning up pockets of debris wherever they could be found.
Like the first event, participants first gathered at assembly points and, after being given work gloves, an orange safety vest and instructions on how to be safe, were shuttled to the cleanup sites.
Kevin O'Shea, of Montoursville, delivered safety instructions to a group assembled at the former site of the Pier 87 restaurant. O'Shea said he volunteered for the event for one reason.
"It's my valley," he said. "We all live here."
Some volunteers offered their hands and muscles, while others shared their pickup trucks that were used to shuttle workers to the sites and haul debris from the sites to drop-off Dumpsters.
Those not working cleanup sites helped in other ways by baking cookies or making sandwiches with which to feed the volunteers.
Alice Weiler, a counselor at Loyalsock Valley Elementary School who was assisting with efforts at Hidden Valley Road, said cleaning the creek is part of an overall healing process.
"I feel like we've come so far in the healing, but to continue to help heal our community is just the right thing to do," Weiler said. "There's still so much healing that needs to be done.
"The strength in coming together and what we have been able to overcome due to that coming together has been powerful," she said.
Molly Costello Daly, who owns property known as the Old Keebler Farm where crews worked during both cleanup efforts, said the property would have been impossible to clean without the volunteers.
"As a landowner, it would be impossible to do this on my own," she said.
Daly said the cleanup is important, not only to beautify the creek, but to prevent further damage when the next flood inevitably hits.
"The practical thing about this is that by doing the cleanup, it prevents much of the debris from going downstream in the next flood," she said.
Daly praised Clinton County CleanScapes for its skill in coordinating the massive effort.
"It's amazing," she said. "Obviously, we've never had a flood like this before. I am just amazed at the volunteer effort to clean it up."
Skip Stackhouse, of Eldred Township, said if CleanScapes is involved in a project, he knows it will be worthwhile.
"I work with CleanScapes wherever they clean up," he said.
Among those who volunteered was Justin Rich, of Susquehanna House, a Jersey Shore school and day treatment facility for at-risk youth, which sent six students from the school.
Crews from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources also were on hand.
Plunketts Creek Township resident Aileen Norton, who was on the farm site with a contingent of about 10 people from Fish Real Estate, said she volunteered as a way of helping those who helped her when her own home was damaged in the flood.
Dr. Mel Zimmerman, who was coordinating efforts at the farm, said 22 tons of debris were removed from the area in March.
"There's at least 22 tons or more (still there)," Zimmerman said.
Not on hand for the event - the Lycoming College football team. Team members already had taken their finals and gone home, but that did not mean they did not make their mark on the cleanup efforts.
The team performed backbreaking work during the first cleanup, according to Brad Russell, one of the event planners.
They also worked on their own at cleanup sites for several weekends in a row, he said.
"They clean up several homes," he said. "They even pulled a trailer out of the creek."
Zimmerman said he was impressed with the dedication shown by those who volunteered for both cleanups.
"This couldn't happen without the volunteers," he said. "They are greatly appreciated. It really shows the commitment people have to the area and to helping their neighbors."
Zimmerman said he is confident the creek can be returned to its former pristine condition, but for that to happen, cleanup efforts must continue.
A "float trip" down the creek is scheduled for August. If funds are available, another cleanup will be held in the fall, he said.
The cleanup effort is funded through a First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania grant, McCoy said.
Regardless of whether money will be available to continue the cleanup, the two events hosted by Clinton County CleanScapes shows there is no lack of willingness by local residents to help.
"This is a great project," said Mark Rider, of Gamble Township. "It makes you remember there are still good people left in this world."