Operation Santa Paws Justin

Event organizer Justin Rudd speaks to volunteers before they pass out toys and treats to shelter animals last Christmas at Long Beach Animal Care Services and Long Beach spcaLA.

Here’s one more thing the novel coronavirus outbreak has stopped: 250 consecutive months of beach cleanups around Long Beach.

And that hits Justin Rudd, the city’s self-styled king of events, oh so hard.

Normally surrounded by hundreds of volunteers, the organizer/activist/boundless-source-of-energy took about 45 minutes early Saturday morning to clean up Rosie’s Dog Beach.

By himself.

For the past 250 months — just shy of 21 years — volunteers have joined Rudd on the third Saturday of every month for the 30-minute beach cleanups he’s organized.

The cleanups go on, rain or shine. But a pandemic, that’s different.

With the coronavirus-spurred “stay at home” order in effect throughout California, Rudd had to cancel the event — and many others that he had planned for the coming months. Rudd is routinely at the helm of scores of events, ranging from fitness runs to bulldog beauty pageants to poetry contests to — well, you name it.

“It’s a reminder to me that in life we’re not always in control of everything,” Rudd said. “I’m not getting down about it, it’s a detour, it’s a slow-down, and I’m willing to accept that.”

Rudd moved from Ozark, Ala., to California 24 years ago. Over the years, he’s built a high-profile nonprofit called the Community Action Team. The group organizes about 60 events, contests, projects and fundraisers a year, including the beach cleanups, his Haute Dog poetry contests, the Long Beach Giving Project, the Long Beach Touch-a-Truck and more.

Rudd estimates that this month’s events would have put him in contact with more than 10,000 people. And that’s during a time when standing too close to a single person can be cause for concern.

“I want to encourage our volunteers because there are other ways that they can give and participate,” he said, “maybe not in my events, but especially to nonprofits that are helping people during this time.”

One event that Rudd was forced to cancel is Operation Easter Basket, during which hundreds of volunteers work to create and deliver Easter baskets to kids and teenagers in low-income areas of Long Beach. He’s already spent about $36,000 buying the materials. Some is going to youth-oriented agencies such as the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs, and he’s trying to arrange for groups who participate to pick up the materials and to create the baskets themselves.

Rudd expected to celebrate 250 months of consecutive cleanups surrounded by volunteers.

But he still shared — electronically. He posted a video update on his Facebook and encouraged volunteers to find a way to give, even while abiding by the new rules.

Rudd said he hopes to resume his 30-minute beach cleanups sometime in May.

“I know that when the time comes,” Russ said, “and it’s a safer, healthier time, I’m ready to jump back in.”

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