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No ‘Butts’ About It: Park Cleanup Success
A cleanup crew hit the Community Center Park and surrounding area in Riverbank on Saturday to remove cigarette butts. Photo Contributed
Cleanup in Riverbank
City Councilmember Rachel Hernandez, at left, took time and addressed the cleanup crew, made up of members of various groups, on Saturday and told them she was appreciative of their efforts in Riverbank. Photo Contributed

This past Saturday YAFT (Young Adults Fighting Tobacco) along with other volunteers gathered at the Community Center Park in Riverbank to rid the area of cigarette butts that negatively impact the community. After only an hour of garbage pick-up around the Community Center and downtown area, the group collected 1,362 cigarette butts.

Riverbank City Councilmember District 2 Rachel Hernandez participated in the event along with Zoe Jonick, a CivicSpark Americorps Fellow that works with the City of Riverbank’s Planning Department and other sponsors including Climate Justice Action Now (CJAN), Jakara Movement, and the Sierra Club.

“It was great to welcome Zoe and YAFT volunteers to Riverbank,” said Hernandez. “Although we learned about some negative consequences in the community, we know it impacts everyone and we are taking steps here to educate and mitigate it.”

“My role is performing community engagement around the city’s upcoming Environmental Justice element for the General Plan,” explained Jonick. “This involves talking with community members about the environmental, equity, and access issues that impact their lives so we can build collective solutions.”

Organizers explained that YAFT is a program of the California Health Collaborative that also sponsors CivicSpark Fellowship. The local YAFT group hosted the event on Saturday, May 14 in Riverbank to bring awareness of the causes and consequences of tobacco waste and addiction.

Jonick added that, “Cleaning up tobacco product waste is incredibly important to ensure our community stays healthy and safe from toxic materials, but it is just a part of a more important effort to keep cigarette butts off our streets in the first place.”

There were 17 participants and most of the youth that attended were locals from Riverbank, Modesto, Ceres, Oakdale, and Turlock.

“Our pickup confirmed a not fun fact: that cigarette butts are the most commonly littered item in the world,” stated Jonick. “What people may not realize is that tobacco products not only have negative health impacts while in use, but also when they’re discarded. The waste contains toxic chemicals like lead and arsenic that leach into the local environment, putting health at risk.”

After the cleanup effort, members of the group were treated to lunch served by Tacos El Guero 209 food truck, provided by CivicSpark.

The organizers would like to hear from the community regarding making Riverbank better and what changes can be made to do that by going to or contact

Hernandez remarked that Jonick has been a great partner to the city and that the community can also contact any Councilmember directly through

“Everyone deserves a clean, safe, and healthy place to live and work,” expressed Jonick. “With your help, we can ensure that Riverbank is that place for us and for future generations.”

Cleanup in Riverbank
The YAFT (Young Adults Fighting Tobacco) crew members were in good spirits cleaning up downtown Riverbank on a May 15 workday. Photo Contributed