Lehigh Valley

Allentown's Clean Team evolves with center city

New uniforms unveiled at Allentown City Council meeting.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - There was no fashion runway, but a new look for center city Allentown's Clean Team was modeled for City Council Wednesday night.

Clean Team is an Allentown Rescue Mission program that offers transitional employment to formerly homeless men until they can save up money for apartments and land more permanent jobs.

The Rescue Mission's Clean Team crews have been working to keep center city clean for the last six years.

Mike Mauro, manager of the Clean Team, indicated it is changing as the face of downtown Allentown is changing.

Modeling the Clean Team's new attire for City Council were Dave Strickland and John Ettell.

Tshirts are being replaced by bright blue polo shirts, with the words "Clean Team" on the front and back. And blue jeans are being replaced by khaki slacks.

"Image is important," said Mauro.

The Clean Team also is "tweaking" its five-day-a-week center city operation.

Its crews now start work at 6 a.m. rather than 8 a.m.

"With extra employees coming into downtown Allentown, we want to be there earlier to start the clean-up process as people are coming into work," said Mauro.

He said an additional worker with a sidewalk vacuum now is in center city on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

He also said the Clean Team will provide extra clean-up "at no charge" both immediately before and after the first three major concert events next month in the PPL Center at 7th and Hamilton streets: the Eagles on Sept. 12, Cher on Sept. 15 and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on Sept. 16.

City managing director Francis Dougherty called Clean Team a "wildly successful program" that enhances the quality of life in Allentown.

The Clean Team provides a valuable service to the city, agreed Ann Saurman, manager of Allentown's recycling and solid waste bureau.

Clean Team has two four-year contracts with the city that are up for renewal in January.

Thomas Gibson, board president and volunteer CEO of the Rescue Mission, thanked city officials for entering into those contracts with the Rescue Mission.

"We provide an excellent service to the city and we want to continue doing that," GIbson added.

Located at 355 W. Hamilton St., the Rescue Mission is a non-denominational Christian social services organization that helps homeless and impoverished men.

Gibson said the city's support for the Clean Team program is helping to defeat homelessness in the Allentown area.

He said the program gives men at the Rescue Mission the skills to go back out into the community and land other jobs.

"Through this process, in the last six years we've had about 120 men who have left the Clean Team and now are productive citizens -- they have jobs, have homes and are contributing members of society."

Mauro said all Clean Team members have completed the Rescue Mission's life-skills program. He noted working on the Clean Team also helps with job application resumes.

Saurman explained one Clean Team contract is for Allentown's central business district – between Fourth, Twelfth, Linden and Walnut streets.

Clean Team crews regularly pick up trash, litter and debris in that area, she said.

They also power wash sidewalks on Hamilton between Sixth and Tenth streets.

They do snow removal as soon as snow stops falling – cleaning sidewalks, intersections and access to parking meters.

During special events, they help set up, clean up and tear down.

They even report any problems they observe to the appropriate city bureaus.

Saurman said the city has a second contract with the Clean Team for litter pick-up and special clean-ups on a bi-weekly schedule, between Fourth, Twelfth, Linden and Tilghman streets.

She said they also assist with illegal dump clean-ups.

Allentown is the Clean Team's core customer, offering year-round work, explained Gibson, who added: "We build on that foundation."

Clean Team crews work at the Allentown Fair, Musikfest, Kutztown Folk Festival and Saucon Valley Country Club. They also are keeping at least one center city parking garage clean. Mauro said they also have done work at WFMZ-TV.

They can be hired by anyone needing general laborers, whether for a day, a week or more. They especially are interested in inside work during winter months. Gibson said they can be hired to clean out houses.

More than 40 men are on the Rescue Mission's Clean Team payroll, said Mauro. He declined to reveal exactly how much they are paid for their part-time jobs, but did say it is more than minimum wage.

The number of team members varies depending on the size of any specific job.

Anyone interested in hiring the Clean Team should call the Rescue Mission at 610-740-5500, ext. 32.

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