Teens lead cleanup effort in Johnstown

JOHNSTOWN – Johnstown Teens for a Better Community is a youth group with a mission: To make the city look its best.

Three friends – Adam Denmark, Hannah Sowle and Haley Martin – decided to form the youth group to serve the community and positively represent their age group.

They organized a milelong walk around downtown Johnstown on Saturday, leading more than a dozen people in an effort to cleanup litter.

The walk began at the Johnstown Historical Society on North William Street and ended at the nearby Drumm House.

“We started this last summer in August,” Denmark said. “A lot of teens trash places, but we wish to give back to the community through fundraising.”

Donations were collected Saturday for items such as trash bags and gloves and for repair and cleaning projects.

“A lot of teens have a bad reputation for destroying things, so we want to build a better reputation for our peers,” Martin said.

Hannah Sowle’s father, Danny Sowle, said the walk and cleanup was a great idea.

“It teaches them responsibility, which is returned by parents and the community by giving the group respect,” he said.

Walk participants Colleen and Art Rumrill agreed.

“It teaches them how to be responsible, hopefully for the rest of their lives,” Colleen Rumrill said.

Haley Martin said the group plans on organizing three walks each year, in the spring, summer and fall.

“We will pick up the streets, especially in front of historic landmarks and buildings,” Martin said.

Martin’s father, Scoutmaster Neal Martin, has organized local Boy Scout Troop 104 to be flaggers and walk with the youth group and keep the participants safe.

The band Tripple Induction from Oppenheim, with teenage drummer Casey Crum, bassist James Miller II, and lead guitarist Mitchell Williams, provided live music for the occasion.

Hannaford, Price Chopper and Walmart donated gift certificates for cleaning supplies and bottles of water.

The Johnstown Historical Society, New Covenant Community Church, Sound by J. C. Power & Lights Studio and Frontier Communications co-sponsored the event.

The catalyst for Johnstown Teens for a Better Community was when Denmark, Martin and Sowles witnessed other teens littering Washington Street Park last year.

“They didn’t like what they saw, so they decided upon themselves to clean the park,” Hannah’s mother Jennifer Sowles said. “It kind of snowballed and grew from there.”