4:13 min October 02, 2022

Pick Up the Poconos 2022

Find out how the Pocono Mountains community has been working to keep the area clean and green.

Trash isn't just unsightly, it's bad for the environment. Did you know more than 25,000 bags of trash have been picked up and properly disposed of through the “Pick Up the Poconos” campaign? Below are three ways the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau and its partners work to keep our communities clean and green.

Ira Hayes found himself homeless in the middle of winter and lived in his car for months. “It was terrible. That was the first time for me, but I didn't like it,” he recalled.

At one point Mellissa Ramirez also lived in a car, then a tent, then a shelter. “You take it day by day. That’s it, that's all you can do,” she said.

Ira and Mellissa got connected to Pocono Community Caring Company, or Pocono 3C. The program employs individuals who are homeless or at risk or becoming homeless to clean litter several times a week from Monroe County roads.

It gives participants a chance to get back on their feet, since they often face difficulty finding work without having an ID, address, bank account, or because of a minor criminal record. At the end of each shift employees receive a $50 gift card to instantly buy the necessities to survive, no waiting for a paycheck.

“Don’t give up, no matter how bad it is. There are people who will help you,” Mellissa said.

Since Pocono 3C’s inception in June 2019, nearly 30 participants have secured permanent housing, a vehicle, or full-time employment. Ira has moved out of his car and into his very own apartment, while continuing to work for Pocono 3C. 

“People sometimes stop and say thank you. It's awesome, I like it,” he smiled.

The Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau also partners with Adopt-A-Highway Litter Removal Services of America, Inc. to regularly clean major gateways to the Pocono Mountains including Interstates 80 and 380 plus Route 33.

“I think we've all heard the stories of plastic in oceans, but look at plastic in our streams. We have some of the best freshwater fishing in the United States, biking and hiking, whitewater rafting. We want all of our waterways and forests to be as clean and green as possible,” said Chris Barrett, President/CEO, Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau.

The “Pick Up the Poconos” campaign also includes volunteer-driven Pick Up the Poconos Days. Twice a year, in spring then fall, community members sign up to clean designated roads, rivers, trails and parks throughout the four-county region.

Since 2018, Pick Up the Poconos Days have grown to include hundreds of volunteers. Individuals, families, organizations, schools, businesses, and resorts all participate. That includes Jack Frost Big Boulder, Camelback Resort, and East Stroudsburg University.

“We're all part of the same community, whether you go to ESU or live in the area. We're all just trying to make this a better place,” explained Scott Gallup, ESU professor.