BY LYNN EDMONDS
Flushing’s pilot “Adopt-A-Block” program may be the most grassroots response to the neighborhood’s garbage woes yet.
On Monday about ten volunteers clad in neon t-shirts celebrate the conclusion of the week-long pilot program, which involved cleaning Roosevelt Avenue between Main and Union Street from 7 to 9 a.m. and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. daily.
They swept, washed down recycling receptacles and trash cans, took graffiti off trash cans and post office boxes and washed ad bins, a group leader, Michelle Gavin, said.
The initiative was spearheaded by Body and Brain Yoga and Tai Chi Center on Roosevelt Avenue, where Gavin is a manager, and its charity branch, Earth Citizen’s Organization, and was financed from a micro grant awarded through the Flushing Chamber of Commerce.
Using a friendly approach, the volunteers also raised awareness about recycling and the importance of keeping the neighborhood clean.
“We did a lot of positivity cheerleading,” Gavin said.
They wore sandwich boards around their shoulders with recyclable items like bubble tea cups and water bottles stuck to them and stood near waste receptacles to remind people to do the right thing.
When an elderly and apparently sick man slowly approached the garbage bins and attempted to throw out two half-full plastic bags, a couple volunteers cheered and clapped for him. When one of his bags got stuck on the rim of the basket, the man slowly reached out and pushed it all the way in. More claps. He shuffled away with tiny steps, looking down at his feet.
For this man, whose leg was swollen, throwing the garbage in the trash was an obvious effort. But volunteers said they treat everyone this way.
“People were a little shocked, but they were always really grateful and smiled at us. It was a little corny but it worked out well,” Gavin said.
The group received $832 from the Flushing Chamber of Commerce’s “The Great Flushing Soup” program. In April, they were selected as the winner among four community organizations that presented ideas for how to improve Flushing. The unique fundraising model has participants pay $5 to participate in the voting and drink a bowl of soup. It has been used in Detroit and Chicago and involves community members voting for their favorite out of four proposals. The winning presentation gets to keep all the money raised by participants and sponsors.
Gavin said that the response from pedestrians was “heartwarming,” and that some stopped to help.
“There was so much positive feedback from people on the streets that were just applauding what we were doing and asking to get involved and find out more about what will happen next,” she said.
She added that some business owners also expressed interest in helping fund more clean up.
“I didn’t realize that this is the main topic on everyone’s mind. But no one’s presented a way yet for them to get involved. I hope this is just a beginning, so we can get to the next step,” she said.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana