Hanna Jaaro-Peled spent her Sunday with her 12-year-old daughter Alma, picking up soda cans and cigarette butts and shoveling dirt off of pavers in Middle Branch Park near Cherry Hill.
The cleanup was one of many events organized by the Jewish Volunteer Connection for "Good Deeds Day," an annual day of service held in the spring that was started in 2007 by Ruach Tova, a part of The Ted Arison Family Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the global philanthropic organization the Arison Group. It now boasts more than 1 million participants around the world.
At Middle Branch Park, they mulched the playground, edged plant beds and picked up more than a dozen giant bags of trash.
Jaaro-Peled, 46, of Reisterstown, said the activity felt empowering.
"Especially after the elections there's a lot of complaining," she said. "If one can do something very, very small, at least you feel that you tried to do something, instead of complaining or feeling bad about how things are."
However, as the group made progress in picking up trash in the park, she said she was dispirited to see the amount of trash left in the water south of the Inner Harbor.
"When seeing the trash in the water you kind of think that what we do here is almost meaningless," Jaaro-Peled said. "But if you think that way you will not be doing anything."
Other events organized by the JVC for Sunday in the Baltimore area included another park cleanup, two harbor cleanups, a diaper bank activity for needy moms and events to spend time with seniors. At least 500 people participated, JVC officials said.
Karen Singer, the vice chair of the JVC board, said city officials designated the park for cleanup because they want more people from the Cherry Hill community to use it.
"The neighborhood adjacent to us doesn't have as much open space and it's a resource that's underutilized," Singer said.
Singer said she found wrappers, cigarette butts, Coke cans and landscaping debris.
"This will create a resource that is even more appealing than they had before," Singer said. "So it's to increase their own community by having a nicer place to enjoy."
John Busse compared the cleanup effort to "Mr. Trash Wheel," the litter trash interceptor that lives in the Inner Harbor.
"It was all nice and compact on the shoreline but there was a lot of it, that's for sure," said Busse, 45, of Lutherville. "Honest I had no idea what we we're going to do but I figured a couple hours with a shovel is a good thing."
Jen Grossman, the chair of the JVC board, brought her three children with her, ages 7 through 13.
"I think it's important to see all the generations out here together," she said. "To see so many people from different parts of the community out here working together, people that we wouldn't normally cross paths with, I wouldn't say was necessarily a mission of the day but it was really a nice addition to it, just to meet so many people who clearly share the same kind of vision that we do."
Grossman said she has her children involved in her volunteer projects.
"Today we were mulching the playground and just now I was cleaning up inside of the water, I was picking up trash," said her son Matthew, 13. "I'd say I found about 10 candy wrappers, just every 10 seconds there would be a new candy wrapper. I have a feeling somebody was down there eating candy and just throwing it in."