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Residents of Brentwood, Central Islip come together to clean up streets

Stephanie Gonzalez, left, and Qiana Smith clean up

Stephanie Gonzalez, left, and Qiana Smith clean up roadside debris in Brentwood Saturday. Credit: David L. Pokress

Volunteers of all ages wore gloves, carried rakes and picked up trash Saturday in Brentwood and Central Islip to rid the streets of garbage while also cleaning up the communities' images as a hotbed for gang violence.

"We have 10-year-olds out there right now. We have 60-year-olds out there right now. When you can teach people about keeping your community clean, they will remember that for a lifetime," said Marcos Maldonado, 37, with the group Uplift Brentwood. "These type of events show it takes a community to come together and take care of itself."

Maldonado's group, along with the nonprofit Youth Enrichment Services, teamed up Saturday during the eighth annual Clean Streets Project.

About 100 people fanned throughout Brentwood and Central Islip on a hot, humid day to clean up an estimated 1 ton of garbage, Maldonado said. Volunteers placed garbage in bags, which were then tossed into six donated industrial trash bins.

"We want to create positive images for Brentwood and Central Islip," Maldonado said. "We are going to hear about bad stuff. So long as we hear about people doing good stuff, nothing is lost. We are still fighting. We want to show that Brentwood and Central Islip are where good people live."

Arron Owen, 11, picked up trash Saturday with his father, Shawn Owen, 36, of Wheatley Heights.

"I care about Brentwood. My grandmother lives here," the Arron said. "It's about the security of the community. It's about the health of the community. It's about my grandparents, everything around it."

Shawn Owen said the cleanup is a "necessity" and he lives by the mantra: "This world is not about you, but the world around you."

Stephanie Gonzalez, 32, of Medford, participated in the event with her two teenage children, a 5-year-old niece and an 11-year-old cousin.

Gonzalez said Brentwood generally doesn't get a fair shake.

"It's our community. I grew up in Brentwood and it's made a reputation for itself," she said. "People don't realize there is a lot of love in Brentwood. There is a lot of culture. ... There's been gangs in Brentwood since I was growing up. There are gangs everywhere. I try to teach my children to do better and lead by example."

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