By Mike Schuh

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — If you looked around Saturday, it seemed as if a lot of people were getting yardwork done before the rain.

Mike Schuh reports the mayor was no exception.

We see these annual cleanups… well, every year.

“We announced our Power in Dirt initiative,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

But now the mayor has upped the stakes.

“We came up with this Community Clean competition. It’s a city-wide competition,” Rawlings-Blake said.

Seventy neighborhood teams are finding the power in dirt. They’re now competing to try and make their neighborhoods better. The most successful in each area get a $5,000 prize.

“You get judged on things like this taking over a vacant lot, how much recycling has gone up, how much have calls for clean alleys gone down because you’re out there cleaning up,” Rawlings-Blake said.

Earl Johnson got together a group of veterans and formed a volunteer army to keep his Oliver neighborhood clean. They’re reclaiming a vacant lot.

“It was overgrown, couldn’t be seen from the street. Had couches, TV, washing machine, a body. Yeah, there was a body here a couple of years ago,” Johnson said.

His group says the hard gains of Saturday will endure, because he and some of the others here Saturday live there.

“It makes it our responsibility to make sure this looks great all the time because we live here and that’s the important part,” Johnson said. “We’re going to keep it going because it’s our home. It’s not a field trip for us.”

“It instills pride and hope and you can see it driving around this area. You see investment,” Rawlings-Blake said.

The mayor will announce which four organizations won the contest at her annual fall cleanup.

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