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DAILY JOURNAL (May 6, 2014) VINELAND — School was out and cleaning was in for the junior class of Cumberland Christian School on Monday.

The class — 34 students in all — and a few teachers collected trash in Landis Park for about four hours on Monday. The cleanup was part of Cumberland Christian’s annual SOAP initiative, or Support Our Activities Program.

For city government, SOAP was a timely added ingredient to a new, month-long effort to get residents involved in small neighborhood projects to improve Vineland’s appearance.

“I Can Make A Difference Month” was announced last week by Mayor Ruben Bermudez.

“As we head towards summer, plans are well underway for a number of exciting festivals and events that will draw thousands of visitors to Vineland over the coming months and we want to put our best foot forward,” Bermudez stated.

The first activity actually took place at the end of April, with a weekend painting and cleaning at mini-parks on Landis Avenue. The Vineland Downtown Improvement District/Main Street Vineland followed this Saturday with a three-hour morning cleanup.

 SOAP sends students out, by class, to do a variety of good works on one day and money individual students solicit from sponsors pays for sports and other extracurricular activities.

“ ‘Lead by serving’ — that’s what our headmaster says,” junior Kristen Mills of Alloway said.

On Monday, classes four through 12 dispersed as far as to YMCA Camp Merrywood and as close as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Junior class adviser Mike Gebhardt and mathematics teacher Sherry Siligato also were filling trash bags at Landis Park.

“Years ago, we used to do all sorts of city service projects,” Siligato said. Gradually, other projects displaced them, so Monday was a return to past practice.

Students broke up into teams, with some packing away trash and some recyclables.

Alison Uhland, an Upper Deerfield resident, and Abby Milcarek, from Franklinville, patrolled with Mills.

“It’s fun,” Milcarek said. “We get to get out of school for a day.”

Gebhardt said juniors get a trip to the shore if they meet their donation goal.

This Saturday, the improvement district has organized a day of planting in the downtown to follow up on the cleanup day from the previous weekend.

Gary Holloway, executive director of the district, expects 25 to 30 volunteers.

“We’re getting some from Calvary Chapel,” Holloway said. “We have some Girl Scouts that are coming and some of the Main Street regular volunteers.”

Also on Saturday, the Vineland Environmental Commission is cleaning up South Vineland Park.

Planting also is the mission on Saturday for Friends of Faith, which is returning to the Landis Avenue mini-parks that members cleaned up a week ago.

“We plan to continue at the mini-parks and tackle additional cleanup projects during the month, as well as other community projects such as painting and building handicap ramps for those in need,” said Frank Ippolitto, a group member and Calvary Chapel member.

The city also is seeking groups to “adopt” roads, neighborhoods and parks.

Anyone interested in a project may contact the Mayor’s Office at (856) 794-4011.