Highway Cleanup: Milwaukee, WI
In September 2017, Sathya Sai Center of Milwaukee (SSCM) adopted a mile on Highway 18 (Bluemound Road) in Brookfield, Wisconsin, as part of its community outreach. Sai volunteers participated in the Adopt-A-Highway program of the WI Department of Transportation (DOT), which coordinates volunteer efforts to remove trash, recyclables and litter from state highways. Volunteer groups that adopt a section of any highway are expected to clean it three times a year between April and November. In turn, they are supplied with protective gear such as safety vests, in addition to trash bags and “Men at Work” sign boards. As a recognition for their effort, a road sign with the group's name is displayed along the adopted mile of highway.
The SAI mile, as the Sathya Sai Education (SSE) children call it, stretches from Brookfield Road to Calhoun Road. The Center did its first cleanup on October 22, 2017. The road sign with the name of the Center (and thus, glorifying the name of Sathya Sai) was put up on June 26, 2018. Ever since, the Sai volunteers have done the cleanup service three times a year, in the months of April, July and October. A minimum of 10 adults and 6-10 SSE children, above the age of 11 years, usually participate in this activity, although during the COVID-19 pandemic, SSE kids did not participate in this service. After the cleanup, the DOT would be notified to carry out an on-site trash pick-up and disposal.
The volunteers’ commitment was tested each time. There were thunderstorms before every single cleanup and the Center officers would be compelled to discuss postponing the service. But, at 7:30 am on the day of the service, the skies would clear, and the service would proceed smoothly. The “Men at Work” signs would first be placed at the start of the mile. Slowly but surely, the SAI mile would be cleaned. It usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour to cleanup, after which the volunteers would gather at McDonald's to share their reflections.
In the words of one of the SSE students, “I feel so grateful for the opportunity to clean up the highway that has been provided to me, because it feels amazing to think I did something to make the world a better place.”
According to a long-time devotee, “I reminisce on the cleanup we would participate in Puttaparthi in the summer months while Sai Baba was away in Kodaikanal or at Whitefield. The aim was to clean the ashram, but in reality, it was to clean out our vices and take time to reflect and ponder on how you want to continue your life. This cleanup is not just about cleaning the highway, it is also about cleansing our minds and help us feel the joy of doing service as a united group.”