Reaching Out and Cleaning Up
The annual community clean-up organized by the Connecticut Avenue Estates Civic Association in Wheaton had an important difference this year: there was broader outreach and more diverse participation. Thanks to collaboration between the Civic Association and IMPACT’s Bluhill Circle, neighbors were able to cross lines of difference, find some common ground, and enlist greater resident involvement in the community project.
Wheaton’s neighborhoods are quickly becoming more and more racially and culturally diverse. A 2014 Washington Post article mentioned that Wheaton has, “the greatest Hispanic concentration in Montgomery County.” But, there are also immigrants from other parts of the world as well as the white residents who bought homes there in the 1960s and African Americans who began to move to the area in the 1980s.
The Connecticut Avenue Estates neighborhood reflects this new diversity and all of the opportunities and challenges of multi-cultural communities. The recent community clean-up demonstrated the power of collaboration to help residents overcome barriers and find ways to work together for good.
The clean-up was held on October 24th as a part of Montgomery County Volunteer Center’s Community Service Week 2015.
Carolyn Gupta, president of the Connecticut Avenue Estates Civic Association and one of the lead organizers for the clean-up, worked with members of the Bluhill Circle—which is largely Hispanic—to do deeper outreach in the community. “Members of the Bluhill Circle have helped us connect with our Spanish-speaking neighbors. Circle members come to Civic Association meetings and I attend their Circle meetings,” Ms. Gupta explained.
Bluhill Circle members promoted the clean-up within their own group, spearheaded a door-knocking campaign that had volunteers going from house to house to spread the word about the event, and texted neighbors to remind them to participate.
Ultimately, more than 12 containers of trash, recyclables, and yard trim were collected. And some 15 residents and students volunteered.
When asked about working with the Civic Association, Bluhill Circle member Edelmira Orellana said, “It’s one of the best decisions that we’ve made because it’s only by working together that we can get a better community.”
And while everyone was pleased with the deeper outreach and more diverse participation, Edelmira did voice some disappointment that not more community members participated. But, she quickly added, “I plan to help out with the next clean-up.”
Carolyn Gupta is looking ahead as well. The next clean-up is on the Civic Association’s November agenda.