By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Although spring has been off to a slow start this year, the residents of Harambee neighborhood are not. This past Saturday residents and volunteers gathered for a bit of residential spring cleaning and picked up the trash on a 160-block radius in the first Harambee Neighborhood Cleanup.
The event took place within the borders of North Holton Street west to Interstate 43 and West North Avenue north to West Capitol Drive. It came to be as a result of the combined efforts of various community groups including Running Rebels, 5Points Neighborhood Association, WestCare Wisconsin,
Safe & Sound and Bader Philanthropies.
Adrian Spencer, a manager of the Drug-Free Communities for Safe & Sound, helped organize the clean-up. She was stationed at Clinton Rose Park and issued out cleaning supplies for volunteers.
According to Spencer, at Rose Park 173 residents and 260 additional volunteers showed up to participate.
“For me as an organizer, it was an extremely gratifying day,” she said.
The original date for the cleanup saw a scattering of snow, so a lot of people didn’t show up but this time they did.
Typically, she explained, Safe & Sound does small-scale cleanups throughout the summer. The organization is established in ten different neighborhoods including Sherman Park and Midtown. In the summer, each neighborhood hosts four community cleanups.
Thanks to their previous efforts, a lot of the residents already had the proper cleanup tools and scheduled cleanups. Spencer said that some residents organize a clean-up every Saturday while others do it the third Saturday of every month.
According to Spencer, the hope is that residents continue to organize scheduled clean-ups on their blocks and in their parks.
“This is a very positive thing,” she said. “It’s simple but positive and everybody could get behind it.”
The youth were among some of the most enthusiastic. Spencer saw groups of young people armed with cleaning supplies tackle one area and then return asking where else needed to be clean.
It was especially inspiring to know that these kids came of their own volition because they want to see their neighborhoods improve, she said. After all, Safe & Sound’s initiative is to unite, “residents, youth, law enforcement and community resources to build safe and empowered neighborhoods.”
Although the main goal is to clean-up the neighborhood, it’s overall purpose goes beyond that. It gave neighbors a chance to meet one another and unite towards a common goal. It also gave community groups the opportunity to offer resources and introduce themselves to new people.
Overall the event was a huge success, with Waste Management picking up trash bags during the event and the days that followed.
“It looks great out there,” Spencer said.
Given the final outcome, groups like Safe & Sounds are already beginning to plan for next year’s neighborhood cleanup. According to Spencer, there’s the potential for a city-wide cleanup, which she admits would require a lot of work as the preparation for this year’s event began in October and a lot of effort went towards recruiting volunteers through emails and by going door to door.
For those interested in helping clean up other neighborhoods including their own, go to https://www.safesound.org/.