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On the roads with Jesus
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The roads of Newton County got a little bit cleaner Saturday morning as 1,400 people from 15 different churches turned out to pick up trash for the third annual "On the Roads with Jesus" project.


Clusters of orange-shirted volunteers could be seen on many major roads scattered throughout the county. Members of the 15  participating churches - Eastridge Community Church, Springfield Baptist, Potter's House, Mansfield Baptist, Covington First United Methodist Church, Starrsville United Methodist Church, Church at Covington, Church of the Good Shepherd, Allen Memorial United Methodist Church, Tabernacle Praise, Bethel Bara Baptist, Early Hope, Prospect United Methodist Church and Hebron World Church - were accompanied by blue skies and fair weather as they gathered bags and bags of litter and waste.


On Route 36 near Bethel Bara Missionary Baptist Church, round, orange trash bags waiting to be picked up dotted the roadside as a crew of about seven people climbed through weeds and gullies. ``


Lillian Leggs pointed out the bagged trash was only a portion of what they found. "We're leaving the heavy stuff," she said.


"It makes you not want to throw any trash out," said Michelle Mann, who joined Bethel Bara's group because her church wasn't participating this year.


"It's a lot of fun, and good exercise and good fellowship," said Eva Priscilla Ellis, who had worked up a sweat.


Dan Marineau, music director at the Church of the Good Sheppard, which had a group of 15 or 16 volunteers cleaning Route 36 near McDonald's, agreed with that sentiment. "We're trying to keep the environment clean and have good fellowship, too," he said. "Working together brings that about."


"It's a good way to show the county we care," said Eastridge Pastor Rob Raynor, who was spotted with a crew on U.S. Highway 278.


Many of the volunteers participated in the effort as a family, with couples, parents and children working together to clean the roads.


Lt. Bill Watterson of the Newton County Sheriff's Office said deputies watching over the volunteers had issued fifteen tickets to speeding motorists and were even able to recover a car that had been stolen out of Butts County when a volunteer recognized it and called 911.


About 300 people gathered for the closing celebration at Sharp Stadium at noon, with music provided by a team from the Church at Covington. Representatives of the participating churches offering prayers on unity, the education system, gratitude, living a clean life, and being the hands and feet of God. Eastridge Associate Pastor Greg Miller ended the day by asking the volunteers to pray for each other's churches.


Organizer Todd Teasley seemed satisfied with this year's event. "We did good," he said. "Our participation was down from last year, but we still did good."