Volunteers work to clean up outer East Portland – one neighborhood at a time

See how the simple idea of a ‘neighborhood clean-up’ does much more than merely provide an easy way for folks to dump their trash …

The Chair of the Lents Neighborhood Association, Damien Chakwin, pitches refuse into one of the many Dumpsters sited around the neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
One of the services that many outer East Portland neighborhoods provide for their residents is “Neighborhood Clean-up” events. But, as we learned from several neighborhood leaders, these clean-ups – three of them were happening on the same day – are more than just a convenient way for neighbors to dispose of their yard debris and refuse…

Lents Neighborhood

Lents’ Damien Chakwin sorts refuse from reusable items at their neighborhood clean-up.

On October 17, the Lents Neighborhood Association held their fall clean-up. Damien Chakwin, Lents Neighborhood Association Chair, didn’t let the steady rain that was falling that day detour him from helping residents pitch their debris into one of the eight Dumpsters in the neighborhood.

“We don’t take hazardous wastes, of course,” Chakwin said. “And, we make sure that computers and other non-recyclables are properly disposed of.”

The Dumpster he was manning was filling quickly, even during an atypical downpour. “I credit my wife – she promotes the event by handing out flyers, for example, and many other ways. She does such a good job; this Dumpster usually fills up quickly, and accounts for the donations given. She’s absolutely my hero.”

In addition to getting trash out of the neighborhood, Chakwin said the voluntary donations help support neighborhood activities. “And, in addition to making our yards and homes tidier, the ultimate result is a better Lents neighborhood.”

When all was tallied, haulers removed almost 16 tons of trash, refuse, and debris from the Lents Neighborhood.

Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood
Just to the East of Lents, also on October 17, the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association was holding their own fall clean-up event.

“We had five sites this year,” observed their association’s President, Mark White.

Because theirs is one of the geographically-largest neighborhood associations in the city, the multiple sites made it easier for neighbors to participate, explained White. “We used West Powellhurst School as our main location; at this site, neighbors could come and recycle goods made primarily out of metal, there.”

White added that, considering the relatively short lead time, this year’s fall clean-up event was quite successful. “The neighborhood gained a some donations from the project over the cost, part of which was covered by a Metro grant.”

Woodland Park Neighborhood
Up north, also on October 17, the Woodland Park Neighborhood Association was simultaneously hosting their annual clean-up event.

“We had four Dumpsters out,” said the neighborhood association’s Chair, Alesia Reese. “With 30 of our of 97 households participating, it was a good event.”

Because theirs is a small residential neighborhood, with no stores or coffee shops – north of NE Halsey Street and east of the I-205 freeway – this event also helps build a sense of community, Reese said. “It seems to be a good opportunity for neighbors to get out and help one another. This event gives people a reason to come out and be together.”

As a neighborhood, Reese added, they agreed to continue the clean-up events in the future. “We also had some good donations that go into the special projects fund. Even in these economic times, neighbors chose to participate.”

Wilkes Neighborhood

The Chair of Wilkes Community Group, Alice Blatt, escapes from the pouring rain during their clean-up event.

Torrential rain seemed to be the theme during this year’s neighborhood clean-up events, including the one in Wilkes Community Group on November 7.

What started out a weather-threatening morning turned into a very wet day at Margaret Scott Elementary School, as volunteers quickly filled Dumpsters to the brim.

Ed Zarins, Jim Blatt and Steve Johnson get drenched while helping neighbors unload their refuse during the Wilkes Community Group clean-up.

Even with the monsoon-like downpour, some latecomers grumbled because every inch of the massive Dumpsters at the Wilkes event was packed full. In all, 8.5 tons of yard debris was hauled off, as well as 7 tons of refuse!

We should add again that the outer East Portland clean-ups are made possible, in part, by a grant from Metro.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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