Frustrated and annoyed with the garbage and dog shit piling up in the alley behind my house, I decided to take action and host a community block clean-up this past Sunday. I was very pleased that two people actually came out to help Jack and I pick up garbage, sweep up broken glass, shovel animal waste and pull up weeds. I honestly didn't expect anyone to show up to help on a sweltering hot August morning.
Even though the army of concerned neighbors I assembled for the clean-up was relatively small, our work made a difference. Not only is our alley in much better shape than it was before, I got to meet a number of my neighbors who may not have helped with the work but did take the time to stop by and introduce themselves to me and thank me for what I was doing.
I started noticing other small changes as soon as one week after I passed out the first flier notifying my neighbors of the clean-up. That very next weekend, I witnessed one neighbor cleaning up her backyard, and the owners of the Highland Clipper Club on the corner of my block finally picked up all the cigarette butts that their patrons had tossed on the sidewalk. Then, last night when I went to bring our trashcan back into our yard, I noticed that three of my neighbors who had previously just tossed bags of garbage into the alley had actually purchased trashcans with lids and even neatly labeled them with their addresses.
If you have been following my blog for a while, you may remember me first talking about hosting a community block clean-up back in May, and you may be thinking, "Gee Mara, I thought you were a go-getter. It took you how many months to pull this together?"
The reason for the delay is that I was trying to get a grant from the City, from a local nonprofit or from an environmental group, to pay for the supplies for the clean-up. No such luck. Most organizations I contacted had no money to give, and those who did have grant programs available said my neighborhood didn't fall into the City's "target areas" (aka my neighborhood isn't ghetto enough to receive assistance).
I was however able to borrow brooms and shovels from the Highlandtown Neighborhood Association. That groups leader, Kevin Berhnard, is awesome! He helped me through the planning process and was even one of the two guys who came out for the clean-up.
The funds for the weedkiller, contractor bags, gloves and drinking water came out of my own pocket. But, you know, it was totally worth it. I am going to do one of these clean-ups every month, with our without the City's help.