St. Clair -- stock

With the help of a local church group, St. Clair has taken the next step in its “Operation Facelift.”

An earlier phase of Operation Facelift involved enforcing code ordinances within the city. Called Operation Clean Sweep, residents were asked to clean up their property. The city’s code enforcement officer drives around town looking for violations.

“We don’t know what status you are when we do code enforcement,” City Inspector Mike Bursey said. “I don’t know who they are, how old they are or anything like that.”

That means disabled or elderly residents could be cited. But to assist the less fortunate, the city has established a group called Helping Hands.

The church group, which asked to remain anonymous, has come out and assisted two residents on Bursey’s request, so far.

“It’s a blessing to say the least,” Bursey said. “I have seen so many people who can’t do anything, they don’t have anyone to help them. So it has been a breath of fresh air to have people like that.”

Once the property is cleaned up, the violation is removed from the books.

Though Operation Facelift started in 2019, the first Helping Hands volunteers came out in October 2020.

The church group has worked on two homes so far. The first one involved clearing brush, hauling debris and picking up trash.

“It’s just the little things,” Bursey said. “When we drive for code enforcement and there’s a car stuck in the grass or we have to go out and cut grass.”

Work on the second house involved cutting down trees. The group still has to replace a door that had fallen apart.

“I think it’s a real good thing if we can help each other, if we can do something for somebody else,” the leader of the church group said. “We try to help in whatever ways they want us to.”

The group spends about a day at each property. The most rewarding part is being told they’ve made a difference.

The group isn’t looking for publicity, the church official said.

“We just want to help the city people, really,” he said.

Residents have to be cited by code enforcement before being eligible for Helping Hands, Bursey said. They cannot ask for help.

Helping Hands is St. Clair’s latest beautification program. Operation Facelift started with Phase 1, the Yard of the Month program, which encourages residents and businesses to clean up their properties. Prizes worth $250 were offered when the program started in 2019.

Phase 2 was the continued enforcement of the city’s rental occupancy program and inspections conducted on rental property.

During this phase, officials assisted landlords, tenants and the community by enforcing the rental occupancy program.

In Phase 3, the city put into action its Operation Clean Sweep, a program in which the city hoped to see residents cleaning up their property.

This phase includes code enforcement being conducted and enforced within the city limits on a weekly basis.

Phase 4 involved enforcing the city’s vacant property ordinance.

After Phase 5, Helping Hands, the final phase of Operation Facelift will be land sponsorship, where community members sponsor plots of land in the city. They take care of the property throughout the year and can put up signage to let the public know who sponsors it.