Fownders’ neighborhood cleanup took place Saturday April 29th in the heart of Newark’s Central Ward, where Fownders calls home. Home is where the heart is and it is the nature of love to take care of your heart. More than caring for the neighborhood that Fownders has called home since 2016, organizing this cleanup was about leadership through example. It’s long said that if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.
Fownders HQ is nestled between two schools along a major throughway and as can be expected, students and passersby flood the local corner store for food and snacks all day every day, compounded with the fact that there is not a trash can in sight for blocks, you can imagine the endless drove of wrappers and plastic bottles that blow with the wind along the sidewalks and curbsides.
Day in and day out the Fownders team would come into the district and every now and then someone would remark about the litter and how there should be trash bins placed in such a high-traffic area. We would comment about how the litter brings down the spirit that thrives in high-frequency, good vibe surroundings. As good conscious goes, the remarks and comments started to kindle the fire of change. We decided to clean the streets ourselves.
Our original date for the cleanup was indeed Earth Day but our efforts were met with contingencies outside of our control and we had to reschedule for the following Saturday. Mother Nature was definitely on our side, although the temp sat above 80 degrees and the air was humid, there was a constant breeze that made the project … well, a breeze.
We got started at around 10:30 am and worked tirelessly for 3 hours before we broke for lunch then regrouped to tackle the remaining territory of the three-square block perimeter that we showed no mercy with our garbage-pickers, pokers, shovels, rakes and push brooms. We even flexed our green thumb pulling up weeds in a parking lot.
Everyone could feel the impact of our efforts as cars passed by and honking drivers smiled and gave us thumbs-up. People stopped and stared, some approached and asked who we were and why we were doing it. Our reply was simple; We are Fownders, and because it needs to be done. An exchange of unspoken respect weaved in and out of our exchanges with the people of the neighborhood that day.
Upon seeing us kneeling to pick trash out of the tree bed in front of her home, one lady of Asian descent came rushing out in a night gown and slippers, knelt beside us and without gloves, began picking out the litter side-by-side as members of the community who care. Her English was broken and limited, all she could manage was, ‘thank you, very good, thank you much.’, we nodded and smiled, ‘You’re welcome.’ It was unquestionable that we all got such a rush from doing our “good” and that point was made clear in this one instance that stands out to me; when the city rep stood impatiently a block away calling for us to come back with the tools, Gerard whispered with a hurried child-like innocence, ‘Jade, let’s get this last one, right quick.” I smiled and obliged. How could I not? We knelt to pull soggy leaves, socks and plastic bottles from the storm drain and hurried back to return our tools.
We did the work and by no means is the work done. Changes still need to be made, more permanent solutions need to be implemented, but we’re off to a good start. The seeds have been planted.
Looking back at the event, it was so much more than just picking up litter. Through leadership by example, we helped to lift spirits, those of ourselves and the people we encountered. Knowing this, another neighborhood cleanup is for sure in the Fownders future, bigger and better. We’d love for you to join us in being the change. Stay tuned.
Acknowledgements: The office of Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins, the City of Newark’s Department of Recycling and Home Depot Newark played an integral part in supplying all our supply and tool needs and Fownders Neighborhood cleanup could not have happened without their contribution. Many thanks to all involved ESPECIALLY our volunteers who could’ve been anywhere in the world but they chose to join us in getting their hands dirty on a beautiful Saturday and make an impact with the Fownders fam. Thank you.