Clean start to your week: Monday morning beach clean

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Do you enjoy giving back to the community? Do you love spending time on the beach? If so, the Monday Mornings! Beach Clean-Up group might be for you.

Founded in 2016, this is a group of community members concerned with litter on the beach. As the name suggests, the group gets together each Monday morning, as long as weather permits, to clean Washington Park Beach.

Bucket full of litter during a weekly clean by Monday Mornings! Facebook

Nora Ryszka is the founder of the group. She grew up in Michigan City, and she always felt connected to the beach. After spending some time away from the city, she returned in 2016, and was surprised to see some negative changes.

"I was shocked upon my return to see how much litter was on the beach," she confessed. "Especially how much of that litter was breaking down into small pieces into the sand. It was something then that I couldn't unsee."

Ryszka was determined to do something about this, but she knew she couldn't handle the problem on her own. She got in touch with the parks department. They were also onboard to fix the problem, and that's how the Monday Mornings group was founded.

Look for the stack of buckets and grabbers to know you are in the right place by

The parks department does clean the beach each morning, but small pieces of litter are often hard to find and time consuming to get.

"What we need to normalize is that most communities don't have 'litter pickup' crews," Ryszka told me. "They might have a maintenance crew, or they might have a park department, and litter pickup might be loosely wrapped into that job description."

Whose responsibility is it then to pick up the pieces? Ryszka says it falls on all of us.

"In this very disposable society that we live in, we have to take responsibility for the litter," she said. "It's all of our litter."

While there are a handful of people who knowingly litter or leave trash behind after a day at the beach, a lot of trash washes up in the waves that doesn't come from beachgoers.

When wind blows, it can blow trash from the garbage can into storm drains, which flow into rivers, which eventually flow into Lake Michigan. This is what washes ashore. Trash on the beach can come from anyone or anywhere.

Luckily, this group exists to be part of the solution. Individuals can come for one or many weeks to help pick up the litter. Ryszka and her friend Mike Kilbourne oversee the event each week, and they bring buckets and grabbers for everyone to use.

Bucket full of litter after a successful cleaning by Monday Mornings! Facebook

Whether you can spend a few hours or just fifteen minutes, all help is appreciated. You may even make a new friend while volunteering.

"It has this really nice community aspect," Ryszka explained. "People come and walk together and talk, and you get to know new people that you wouldn't meet otherwise."

You can check the group's Facebook page for posts about the weekly meeting. The hours may change based on season, and some weeks may be canceled if the weather is bad. They plan to continue the weekly meeting into the fall.

As an added perk, if you clean the beach, you don't have to pay the parking fee. Just tell the gate attendant that you are there to help clean.

What if you're busy on Monday mornings, or what if you don't live close to Michigan City? Ryszka says you can still help.

"The beach is always there, and it always needs to be cleaned," she reminded. "Bring a couple of friends and come to the beach and spend half an hour cleaning, and then another half hour just enjoying the beach."

If you have a small group interested in 'hosting' one week, you can send a message to Ryszka or Kilbourne on their Facebook page.

"Let's be the change we wish to see in our communities and in ourselves," she said. "If you see litter, pick it up!"

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