SHAMOKIN — Rosalind Kane walked carefully on the stone-laid bed of Shamokin Creek, snatched an old plastic bottle discarded at the water’s edge and tossed it into a black plastic garbage bag held by her best friend Samantha Stancavage.
The two were among 100 volunteers who dedicated at least one hour Saturday to pick up litter around the city. It’s Rosalind’s event, one named in her honor — Rosalind Kane Community Cleanup — and held each of the past 9 years. She started it at age 9 after asking her mom, Marla, to host a service event instead of a birthday party. Seriously.
Some years, like on Saturday, 100 or so people turn out. Other years, less than 20. Last year, Rosalind kept it to her immediate family without any help due to the pandemic.
“I want the town to look the way I feel about it. A lot of people give Shamokin a bad rep; they say bad things about it, that it looks bad. I didn’t want that to continue,” she said.
Each year, the volunteers pick up water bottles, beer cans, candy wrappers; pull tires and bicycles and even mattresses from the creek.
“Straws are really big. We always see straws,” Rosalind said.
Rosalind is 18 now. A senior at Shamokin Area, she’ll attend Penn State University in the fall to study aerospace engineering. She’s also a talented performer and will pursue singing and acting opportunities.
The 2021 event is Rosalind’s last as the primary organizer. Her impact spurred Mayor John Brown to declare Earth Day as Rosalind Kane Day in the city each year. Rosalind and her parents, Tommy and Marla, are working to hand off the event to the budding civic and economic development group, Go Shamokin. They expect Rosalind’s name will officially stick with the annual cleanup.
“She inspires us. You think you should be the one teaching your children when, in fact, she actually taught us more than we ever could have imagined,” Marla said.
Tommy was a bit emotional when speaking of his daughter’s efforts. He expressed gratitude for everyone who helped her along the way. He thought back on the motorcycle clubs who showed up one year to collect trash. A canned goods drive was held another year to benefit the Manna for the Many food pantry.
“We just did it to make a very small difference in the community. Looking back after nine years, it’s amazing what it’s become,” he said.
Rosalind said she knew many of the faces in Saturday’s large crowd. The volunteers took gloves and garbage bags, pulled on orange vests and fanned out across Shamokin. Before that, they clapped and cheered as state Rep. Kurt Masser presented Rosalind with a citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Moments later, Brown and his wife, Denise, presented Rosalind with a ceremonial key to the city. Rosalind’s mouth fell open in shock at the gesture. She put her left hand to her heart, smiled and hugged Denise.
Brown is in his last term as mayor, which ends at year’s end. When he first took office in 2018 after serving as a council member, he said his wife forced him to seek the good in the city. Rosalind was the first, and brightest, good he spotted, Brown said. It’s rubbing off.
“I started to believe. You all are starting to believe. It’s coming around, it really is,” Brown said of Shamokin.