"If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, keep moving." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As the sun rose in southeast Bakersfield Monday, community members of all ages and ethnicities gathered in prayer, as the 6th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service kicked off at 8:15 a.m. sharp.
Wearing gray or orange event T-shirts, more than 150 people pulled on their gardening gloves, grabbed black trash bags and walked down Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Virginia Avenue.
"It's a day to celebrate Dr. King by doing something to help our community for the better," said Pastor Joe Jordan, who also serves as chairman of Stop the Violence.
As Carina Lugardo, 16, approached the corner of Wilkins Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, her eyes opened wide and she took a step back as she laid eyes on the pile of trash adjacent to the railroad tracks.
"I've never seen so much trash in my life," said Lugardo, a Golden Valley High School Interact Club student.
A pile of trash had accumulated tumbleweeds, dust and a sour stench but Lugardo and 19 volunteers approached the pile with determination to clean it up.
Among the scattered litter was a mattress, a variety of shoes, toothbrushes, empty shampoo bottles, broken light bulbs, and a variety of household items that someone once possessed.
"I feel upset knowing that people are dumping their trash here, because there are proper places they can dispose of their trash," Lugardo said as she put a broken dark brown picture frame in her trash bag.
As much as the city of Bakersfield and the county work to keep Bakersfield clean, Jessica Felix, community relations specialist for the City of Bakersfield, said it isn't enough.
Within an hour, Felix said volunteers gathered a dramatic amount of trash, including torn, worn-out couches, reclining chairs and numerous tires.
"I love seeing everyone work together," Felix said. "This was Dr. King's ultimate dream, to see everyone work together and help each other."
Many volunteers were young students who opted to pick up trash rather than sleep in on their day off from school.
"It's amazing to see what effect kids have on other kids," Jordan said. "They can say they have accomplished something to help their community, giving them a gratifying feeling."
Many had ideas about ways to combat the illegal dumping that has formed mountains of litter.
Uriel Ortega, 15, picked up more tattered phone books than he could keep track of, he said.
"If you see something on the ground, pick it up, don't wait for someone else to pick it up, but take responsibility for your trash," Ortega said.
Unfortunately, some of the streets volunteers cleaned Monday will end up just as littered by the end of the week, Jordan said.
But it's perseverance that keeps the organization going.
Said Jordan, "It gets discouraging, but like Dr. King said, you have to keep moving, you can't stop."