A large group of Vertical Church members performed what could only be described as a “Makeover” when they descended in force this past weekend to cleanup numerous gardens that had become seriously overgrown at the Sandy Point Bird Sanctuary on Beach Street.
Approximately thirty members, all wearing distinct, bright red tee shirts with a “Vertical Church” logo, arrived shortly after 9:00 Saturday morning and didn’t leave till they finished their work shortly after noon that day. They worked collaboratively the whole morning, appearing like a “sea of crimson” in their matching tee shirts. They were equipped with rakes, lawn and leaf bags, weed whackers and gloves. The Sanctuary had been maintained in previous years by neighborhood volunteers. Unfortunately, two of the primary volunteers taking care of the Sanctuary each experienced health issues this last year that had prevented them from doing this important work.
Pastor Paul Bronson of the Vertical Church, having recently moved into the neighborhood, had noticed the gardens in the Sanctuary were overgrown, and he wondered if his church could do something to help. He reached out to City Councilwoman Melissa Garthwait (R-2) who had known the Sandy Point Neighborhood Association was growing concerned about the conditions there and welcomed Pastor Paul’s call. She had also been familiar with the significant community service/mission work the Vertical Church had performed throughout the community in the past. Pastor Paul then spoke to Senior Pastor Ken Vance who agreed to commit the necessary resources and encouragement to arrange for the massive cleanup on June 11. Ron Sell, Outreach Director for the Church, coordinated the logistics and scheduling to assure everything would run smoothly.
Sandy Point Neighborhood Association President Michelle Coletti commented on the day in this way: “As a small community organization, we depend heavily on groups like the Vertical Church to partner with us to help achieve our goals. The Association sees the Bird Sanctuary as one of the major assets of this neighborhood and we wanted to see it properly maintained.” A number of volunteers from the Sandy Point Neighborhood Association joined in the cleanup effort on June 11 as well.
The Sandy Point Bird Sanctuary has become one of the most significant locations for coastal birding in the State of Connecticut, providing a natural setting that has become home to endangered piping plovers, least terns, and rare bird species such as Ospreys, American Oyster Catchers, Egrets, Blue Herons, etc. In 2021, the Connecticut Audubon Society bestowed a “Share the Shore” Award to the City to recognize the importance of the Bird Sanctuary, one of only two awards given that year.
To finish their work – and to assure the gardens would remain in good shape – the Church volunteers spread yards of fresh mulch throughout each garden to discourage the further growth of weeds and invasive plants. And, to make things even better, the Church has plans to return to the Sanctuary once a month through the summer to keep the weeds under control and the gardens looking attractive.
Pictures in this article were provided by Pastor Paul Bronson of the Vertical Church, and Kim-Marie Mullin, Kathie Hebert and Dave Killeen of the Sandy Point Neighborhood Association.