Neighborhood Cleanups Make a Difference - How You Can Organize Your Own Cleanup (cleanneighborhood)

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Neighborhood Cleanups Make a Difference - How You Can Organize Your Own Cleanup

by Yelena Mitrofanova, Extension Educator

Lincoln Neighborhoods - Downtown

Neighborhood cleanups are one-day events that occur in the spring, summer or fall. Cleanups allow residents to get rid of hard to dispose of items at a lower cost than what they would pay at a transfer station or other private businesses. Working together can make a difference in our neighborhoods and our city.

Your highly visible work not only will boost neighborhood pride, but help fight crime. Time and time again, in cities across our nation, neighborhood crime has dropped after cleanup and beautification efforts. A litter-free flower bed is not just a pretty sight, it is a sign of a community that cares.

Unfortunately, not everyone knows where to begin. We will provide you with the outline which you can use as guidance in organizing your neighborhood cleanup.

1. Find and Organize Volunteers: Gather your neighborhood committee and other key members of your community. At your first meeting, allocate responsibilities among your committee members. You may wish to form different subcommittees that may include the following: location, volunteer recruitment, refreshments, publicity, site captains, etc.

2. Choose Sites: Be realistic in choosing sites; do not expect to clean the entire community. Select one or more target areas that can be reasonably done in one day with the number of volunteers you are expecting to recruit. Appoint a site captain for each area you intend to clean.

3. Determine the Needs/Supplies: Prior to the cleanup, evaluate the condition of each site and determine any special needs. Things to look for include: types of trash (loose papers vs. garbage trapped in fences, etc.); junk cars or other large items, which may require special equipment to move; potentially hazardous materials (chemicals, broken glass, etc.).

You will need to consider the following, according to the site chosen:

  • Types of tools (rakes, brooms, shovels, etc.)
  • Heavy equipment (pay-loader, backhoe, etc.)
  • Number of trash bags
  • Gloves, maps, first aid kits

Other optional support sources you may seek include:

  • Refreshments (coffee, donuts, snacks, lunches)
  • Publicity (flyers and posters)
  • Restroom facilities

4. Create Partnerships: You may be able to obtain the above materials by securing the cooperation of local businesses, community centers, non-profit organizations and city officials. One neighborhood group in Chicago planned a cleanup; they sought the involvement of the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and several environmentally oriented groups whose roots were outside the community. The result: a big crowd and dramatic difference in the neighborhood appearance.

Consider cooperation with other groups, even if they are not in your neighborhood: school groups, youth organizations, fraternal organizations, ethnic societies, conservation groups, garden clubs, historical societies, labor unions and religious organizations. These organizations always are looking for activities and they can share their successful strategies with you.

5. Publicize the Event: You should contact local media to secure pre-event publicity and day-of-event coverage for the community. You may print newsletters, posters and flyers to recruit volunteers. Hanging a promotional banner over a frequently traveled road two weeks prior to the cleanup will raise interest in your community. It is important to remember to get permission from local authorities before beginning promotional efforts.

6. Planning the Cleanup Day: Secure the use of a cleanup center at or near the sites and plan set-up details. The cleanup center should be stocked with trash bags, tools, refreshments, first-aid kits and other needs. If your sites are spread out and around the neighborhood, you may wish to find a volunteer who can periodically check on all sites in a roving "supply car."

Determine where filled bags will be placed for pick-up by the municipal trucks and notify the public works department of the locations.

In determining the schedule of events for the day, please consider the following:

  • Registration of volunteers
  • Assignment of volunteers to site captains
  • Safety lecture by site captains
  • Distribution of trash bags/tools
  • Cleanup
  • Loading of trucks
  • Lunch/refreshments after cleanup
  • Entertainment

7. Follow-up: If possible, it is always nice to reward every volunteer with some small token of appreciation. You may write thank you letters to key volunteer groups and participated businesses.

In order to preserve the hard work you have done, you may wish to work with the city and community leaders to keep the neighborhood clean via litter prevention and beautification programs.

Research shows people litter for three main reasons. First, they feel no sense of ownership for a property, even a public park. Second, they think someone else will clean up after them. Third, they see litter already accumulated and think a little more will not matter. What is the message for community groups? Clean up the neighborhood and then maintain a litter-free environment with individual and group efforts and continuing community education.

Finally, enjoy a clean community!!!

Source: Based on materials from "Neighborhoods: A Resource and Reference Handbook," Keep Chicago Beautiful Project.

(This resource appeared in the July 2004 NEBLINE Newsletter. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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