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Beach Heroes OC. Our Heroes!!

Background

In 2016, a small group of volunteers took action to collect the trash and litter that was left behind by a winter storm of that year.  This storm brought lots of rain and wind; along with lots of scattered debris.  In stepped a group of volunteers to assist with the clean-up efforts and also started a much larger grass roots trash clean-up program.  They have been cleaning ever since!

Volunteers at work

The Organization and its Volunteers

This group of volunteers includes a small band of dedicated leaders who are also the six administrators of the program.  What started out as a small group has evolved into an efficient, cleaning machine, which meets every Tuesday morning, year-round, to clean a section of Ocean City.  From its simple beginnings, known as Clean Beach OC, the organization was eventually renamed Beach Heroes OC.  The volunteer pool keeps growing, as community awareness increases.

 In the summer season, these Tuesday clean-ups will average between fifty to sixty people!  In the off season, the numbers decrease but still average from twenty-five to thirty-five people. 

Volunteer at work

This small group states its purpose as, “Our Mission is to support Ocean City’s litter free campaign by meeting weekly to collect debris, and to dispose of it responsibly.  We strive to be good stewards of our coast community, building community relationships, and be a model of volunteerism, so that future generations can continue such stewardship and enjoy the benefits of coastal living.”

Beach Heroes OC volunteers consists of a range of people.  Most of its volunteers are area residents who have relocated from elsewhere to live and enjoy the Ocean City coastal area.  Others are tourists coming from other parts of Maryland and Delaware and beyond; who just appreciate volunteering for a good cause for an area they have come to love.  Children and young adults help out during the year, but primarily in the summer months.  Some youths participate and are able to apply their efforts toward service-learning credits for their school requirements. 

Beach Heroes OC logo and info

Comments from several of its Administrators

  • According to group Administrator, Leslie Eisenhauer, “Beach Heroes OC is a grassroots organization that operates from the Ocean City Inlet area to the Delaware state line.  They work from the Beach to the Bay.” 
  • Administrator Colleen Degroot added, “We have a great core of volunteers.  One year we even had a clean-up on Christmas Day!”
  • Leslie Eisenhauer commented, “Everywhere trash goes around here it will eventually end up in our waterways.  Our goal is to model what stewardship of the environment can look like, help keep the fragile ecosystem clean, and support the Town’s Litter Free Campaign in the effort to preserve the joy and beauty of coastal living.”
  • As the group gets more attention through its good works, they anticipate an increase in volunteer numbers this summer.  Gayle Myrta, who also takes pictures of the group’s clean-up events, says, “As Beach Heroes receives more coverage from the local news, television and our Facebook page, we hope to get additional volunteers as well as sponsors.”
Volunteers at work at cleanup event

Typical clean-up day

So, what’s a typical day for a Beach Heroes OC volunteer?  It starts with the weekly clean-up gathering on a Tuesday at 9am.  However, some volunteers will arrive earlier to start their assigned tasks.  The group convenes at a designated location where trash bags, litter grabbers, and gloves are distributed.  After an hour of cleaning, the full group meets at the original starting point to review the total volume or weight of trash collected that day, for fellowship, and to take a group picture that is shared with its many Face Book followers. 

Volunteers will cover a five or six street area of Ocean City each week.  Some will clean the beach while other volunteers will clean the interior blocks and bayside area.  The size of the area to be cleaned is dependent on the number of volunteers that show up.  The group generally avoids the parking fee areas in the Town that operate during the summer months but gets to these areas in the off-season months.  Tuesdays have been selected because it is easier for the volunteers to find a place to park than on weekends.  Plus, after weekends there tends to be a greater volume of trash that accumulates, which coincides with more people being in Ocean City and thus more litter.  As Leslie Eisenhauer, one of its administrators, states, “While we know the Town does a great job of cleaning, we are the extra set of “boots on the ground” working in the bushes, parking lots, dunes, and marshes picking up the trash out and preventing it from getting into the bay and ocean.” 

During the summer season, volunteers will often collect the ever-increasing amount of single use plastic bags, cups, and straws in addition to bottles, diapers, and paper products.  For the off-season months, when construction is more prevalent in the resort, volunteers will often collect construction debris. 

These committed volunteers will arrive in nice weather, middling weather, and even in poor weather to clean the beach and streets of Ocean City.  The administrators will only cancel a clean-up event if the weather is going to be very wet, snowing, or other extreme conditions. 

“Sea of Blue”

Volunteer receives his blue t-shirt after five volunteer days

The group awards its regular volunteers with two gifts.  If a volunteer works five days the participant will receive a blue T-shirt with the group’s emblem.  If one volunteers twenty-five times, they will get a blue hooded sweat shirt.  These volunteer days do not have to be consecutive, but only cumulative.  A volunteer is charged with tracking these volunteer days.  Not only does Beach Heroes provide these gifts to recognize their regular volunteers’ efforts, but as Leslie states, “It also creates a sense of belonging and draws attention to the litter issue in OC when our ‘sea of blue’ is along the streets on Tuesday mornings.”

 

 

Fun Facts

  • The group collected 14.6 tons of litter and debris in 2023.
  • Over eighteen hundred hours of volunteer service in 2023, which was double the number of volunteer hours in 2022.
  • The group has had over 350 different volunteers help them at different times over the years.
  • The largest piece of trash collected was the cover to a pickup bed.
  • The most undesirable trash to get picked up are baby diapers and needles. According to Gayle Myrta, Administrator, “We had one of our volunteers pick up twenty diapers from a single bush!  Twenty diapers!!”

 

Partners and Sponsors

Beach Heroes OC works with the Town of Ocean City and receives some of its supplies, like liter grabbers and large trash bags, from the Town.  Leslie also serves as the group’s representative on the Town’s Coastal Resources Legislative Committee often referred to as simply the “Green Team.”  The Green Team is charged with issues and concerns impacting the environmental and natural resources of the Town. 

The group has also partnered with other community groups in cleaning efforts on and off the island.  These groups include the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, Assateague Coastal Trust, Ocean City Surf Rider Foundation, and Ocean City Surf Club

Cleanup supplies donated by others for volunteer use.

Beach Heroes OC also gets assistance in many ways from a number of local and area businesses.  These include K-Coast Surf Shop, Shotti’s Point restaurant, The Wave Riding School, Malibu’s Surf Shop, Spicer Bros. Construction, and Royal Plus, Inc., and Quiet Storm Surf Shop.  Past business sponsors included The Dough Roller Restaurants and Fager’s Island Restaurant.

Colleen Degroot says, “The businesses have been so supportive of our efforts by donating trash bags and allowing us to park in their lots, to sponsoring our blue T-shirts and hoodies for our volunteers.  What people may not realize is that although we are a resort town, there is really a community at the heart of it.”

Group picture after morning cleanup.

Comments about Beach Heroes OC

Beach Heroes OC volunteer, Linda Parkhill; “My husband and I retired and moved to this area fulltime.  We were looking for something to do and saw a mention of this group in a local paper.  We volunteer regularly and have done so about thirty times now (and has her blue hooded sweatshirt).  We enjoy helping out and cleaning up. We know the Town of Ocean City does a great job in overall clean-up.  But we get into all the “nicks and crannies” and bushes to make sure all litter is picked up, too.”

Volunteer Sue Abady: “My husband and I were involved in litter efforts while we lived Massachusetts.   When we moved to Ocean City, we were looking for similar volunteer work.   I heard about this group on Facebook and have been volunteering since July 2023.   I like the dedication these volunteers bring to keeping Ocean City clean.”

Jenelle Gerthoffer, Environmental Engineer, Town of Ocean City: “The Town is fortunate to have such a dedicated group of volunteers who can be spotted working tirelessly throughout the entire year, even on cold, windy winter days or rainy, humid summer days.  Not only does the group provide their time keeping Ocean City clean, but they are also an active participant on the Ocean City Green Team.”

Chris Shanahan, owner of K-Coast Surf Shop on how he became a sponsor: “We just started to notice the Beach Heroes cleaning up trash at our 35th Street location as we were doing the same thing…it’s a daily routine with us as our bushes out front are trash magnets for trash blowing around on the road and quite honestly/sadly, people walking down the sidewalk use the same bushes as trash cans for their fast food trash and alcohol containers…and I would always thank the volunteer picking up “our” trash. Beach Heroes reached out to my manager Kevin to see if we would be interested in “sponsoring” their efforts as they have had previous sponsors, Fager’s and the Dough Roller in particular, and were in need of a new sponsor. I interacted with Colleen and mentioned that our sponsorship could include producing their aqua blue Beach Heroes gear which their volunteers wear. I also commandeered the support of Shotti’s (Mike Shott) and WaveRiding School (Brian Stoehr) to help in the sponsorship as both entities operate out of the 35th st location and their logos appear on the BH gear along with K-Coast.”

Chris Shanahan, owner of K-Coast Surf Shop on how Beach Heroes benefits the Ocean City area: “I didn’t recognize the far reaching benefits of the Beach Heroes team until I started seeing the magnitude of volunteers all over town on Tuesday’s…honestly, I thought that it was members of various condo associations cleaning up their properties until Colleen explained their mission to me. Street sweepers can’t pick up trash out of bushes I know that and the Beach Heroes team fills the gap of keeping OC clean in that regard.”

 

Upcoming Cleanup Dates and locations in April

Regular Tuesday Cleanups from 9 am-10 am:

April 2         14th Street – Oceanside

April 9        23rd Street & Baltimore Avenue  (Days Inn lot)

April 16       4th Street & Baltimore Avenue (Municipal Lot on the left) 

                    Tentative visit at 10am by Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan

April 23       28th Street & Baltimore Avenue (behind Coins restaurant)

April 30       Inlet -Downtown oceanside (Municipal lot)

Special Cleanup Events:

Saturday, April 6:   Multi group clean-up event – 100th Street Bayside at the OC Library at 9am

Saturday, April 20: Beach Heroes-OC Earth Day Clean-up  at Samuel Bowen Pkwy –  Walmart Shopping Center   9-10 am

Saturday, April 20: Ocean Pines Season Expo Kick-Off at Whitehorse Park in Ocean Pines  3-7 pm

 

Cleanup sign of Beach Heroes OC

Looking to volunteer?

The best way to learn more about their efforts is to follow them on Facebook.  Each month Beach Heroes will post its cleaning schedule including the location, date and time to meet.  No need to let them know of your interest in volunteering ahead of time.  Just show up, meet the group, and start cleaning with them!!  You will not regret that you did.  And start earning your volunteer time to get a blue T-shirt or hooded sweatshirt and make that Sea of Blue a tidal wave of civic pride!!

 

Pictures and images were provided by the Beach Heroes OC. 

Glenn Irwin
Glenn Irwin
Glenn “retired” in March, 2023 after almost 23 years as Executive Director of the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC). The OCDC is a nonprofit organization that is charged with revitalizing downtown Ocean City. Glenn continues to be involved in several community organizations. Glenn lives in Ocean City and regularly rides throughout the downtown area and boardwalk for exercise and pleasure several times per week, often year-round,. Glenn is our OC Bike Guy and often live streams his downtown rides for oceancity.com as well as takes pictures.

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