Possibly setting a model for other Southeast neighborhoods, Woodstock develops a litter cleanup plan

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Woodstock residents Mike Morrison and Kellye Bruce have been picking up litter regularly, and are proposing a neighborhood litter cleanup plan - once a month, on the third Thursday. Litter on the streets: An empty paper coffee cup, a plastic juice cup, a solitary straw, a lost face mask, a shiny candy bar wrapper. And more. We all know what we see every day, especially in our neighborhoods that have businesses, or people living on the streets.

What to do about so much litter? A few people are trying to stay constantly on it. In a four-block area, Gene and Pat Dieringer, the owners of the Woodstock Safeway block and Bi-Mart block, can be seen almost daily at 8 a.m., cleaning up litter, tires, trash, and sometimes even furniture and household items from the sidewalks and premises of those two "super blocks". And they have done it for years.

Quite a few Inner Southeast Portland neighbors and others throughout the city have joined the local nonprofit "Adopt One Block", to regularly stroll their block and pick up litter. Some go out alone with a grabber stick; others go in twos. And some of us think we will help pick up litter more than we actually do. Life gets busy.

Kellye Bruce and Mike Morrison, who moved to Woodstock five years ago, have come up with the idea of having a collective monthly litter cleanup in the Woodstock neighborhood.

"Kellye and I started doing river and beach clean-ups in Los Angeles. We hadn't done any in Portland until we looked around during COVID-19 and the shutdown, and saw so much trash. We walk our dogs, and started to see a build-up of trash along the major streets (52nd, Woodstock, Steele, Caesar Chavez [formerly 39th], Holgate, 41st Avenue) and sidewalks, as well as some of the side streets." So, they got in touch with SOLVE and started volunteering for bi-monthly cleanups. "It gives you a sense of accomplishment," remarks Kellye.

Kellye, who is a member of the Woodstock Neighborhood Association and also financial manager for the Friends of the Woodstock Community Center, has been talking for several months about the need to have a regular neighborhood litter cleanup. The emerging plan is for neighbors to go out collectively from 6:30 to 8 p.m. every third Thursday of the month.

"We thought if we could get people to take a walk with family and friends, we could cover a whole bunch of territory and pick up a whole bunch of trash. Then, if we did it on a regular basis, we could help keep 'the hood' cleaner, like we would all like, plus it's a great way for neighbors to meet up, lend a hand, AND help out (big or small). Plus building up relationships with folks in the community can only help to make the community better and stronger."

Mike has contacted Adopt One Block, which has agreed to supply grabber sticks, gloves, and receptacles for volunteers — to be stored at the Woodstock Community Center.

On September 15th neighbors will gather at the Woodstock Community Center at 6:30 p.m., and the equipment will be distributed to those who want to help.

If not able to help out on the 15th, neighbors can show up on the third Thursday of October (the 20th) for equipment and to meet other volunteers. Volunteers would then assemble each month at the Woodstock Community Center on S.E. 43rd just north of Woodstock Boulevard, across from Bi-Mart, to choose a route and go out in two's or in a larger group.

Those living in other neighborhoods are invited to make a similar plan to help Inner Southeast Portland once again to look its best!

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