OTTUMWA — The rising cases of COVID-19 didn’t stop a group of residents from cleaning up downtown Ottumwa Saturday morning.

Residents participated in Main Street’s social distance style spring cleaning. In the cleanup, each resident was able to pick a section to clean up around downtown.

Candy Fisher cleaned up around the Ottumwa Public Library. Participating was something she didn’t plan on until the morning of. Fisher, a retired school teacher, worked on community service projects with her students and also worked on other Main Street projects before, so helping with the cleanup was something she didn’t have to think twice about.

“It kind of just got to be a habit with me,” Fisher said, “and I saw that and I’ve worked on other projects here downtown and I thought — perfect, Saturday morning, something to do, gorgeous weather. It was a way to help out and there’s a great group of people down there.”

City Councilwoman Holly Berg also cleaned up around Main Street. She also thought cleaning up on Saturday was a good use of her time.

“I always try to help with downtown projects and always helped with Make Ottumwa Shine,” Berg said. “I think both of those things are so good … it’s a good time to get out and at least do some of our part downtown. As things are starting to open back up and stuff, we want downtown to look good and presentable for people to come back in as that slowly happens.”

Fred Zesiger, Main Street executive director, said he talked with other Main Street members and decided to have the social distance style cleanup in lieu of their April cleanup day. He wore a mask as he passed out gloves and garbage bags to volunteers, happy with the turnout.

“We let people pick the districts they wanted to clean and had a real good response,” Zesiger said. “I had probably two or three people show up today, too, which was nice. I think we pretty much covered most of the district.

“It worked out really well even though it hasn’t been the normal kind of thing, it kind of is,” Zesiger added. “I mean, we always do this, we’ve just been a little more careful and having people come at different times.”

Zesiger said Main Street members are also thinking about future projects to better downtown while taking precautionary measures amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think as we move forward through this, it’s just different,” Zesiger said. “We just have to take precautions and be safe and be respectful of others. People are treating it in different ways. It’s gotta be safe … [we are] just being respectful of others and making downtown better.”

Chiara Romero can be reached at


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