It was a great treat this weekend to spend Saturday morning visiting four different community clean-ups in our ward.
We started out the day meeting up with the Queensway Terrace North Community Association. Already a few early risers were already hard at work at 9 a.m. having donned hats, sunglasses and gloves and picked up a bag to drop found trash in. A mom was showing her young son how to find garbage where it had accumulated along a fence, one of the only spots in Frank Ryan Park that really needed some TLC.
The park was in good shape but needed a few leaves and twigs tidied up and where some garbage had been left there was a bit of room for work. Dozens of community members came throughout the day after we left to help clean their park.
At our next stop, the Woodroffe Walk, a veritable army of neighbours who were raking leaves and clearing the path alongside the Woodroffe North Community Association met us. This bustling clean-up was filled with young families, older neighbours and a sense of speed being of the essence. It was already a warm day at 9:30 and this group wanted to get the path clean and ready for spring as fast as they could manage.
I was so impressed with the spirit of community and togetherness at these events and I was pleasantly surprised to see so many parents sharing the experience with their children.
One mom at our next stop in Woodroffe Park said that her sons enjoyed the use of the park so much she wanted to show them that it was also their responsibility to help keep it clean. Otherwise, she explained, there wouldn’t be a park to play in. Her children couldn’t have been more than four and seven years old. That spirit of being both the caretakers of the park and the people who enjoy it the most was carried throughout the Carlingwood Community Association event that saw more than 50 volunteers participate.
Finally, at our last clean-up of the day, we arrived to more than 30 volunteers spread out across Lincoln Heights Park carrying garbage bags and using pickers to grab trash left behind through the winter. Again, there wasn’t much to do. There were a few items here and there but this park, like the others we visited Saturday morning, was very well cared for.
Once again there were families taking part and another mom explained to me that she wanted her daughters to be as excited about coming to clean up as they would be to come and play. It worked. The little girl was delighted to have found a sock against the fence at the baseball diamond that she was able to put in the garbage to make her play space safe and clean.
It was certainly an encouraging way to spend the morning.
Last Saturday we’d spent time in Bayshore Park and George C. Brown Park in Whitehaven for other clean ups and we were met with the same enthusiasm among volunteers keen to take care of their parks. Men and women alike told me “it’s our park, we should be the ones to keep it clean.”
What amazed me most was not the sheer numbers of volunteers or the fact that they were out early on a Saturday morning when, if I hadn’t been working, I would normally have been just waking up and pondering the distant notion of bacon and eggs. What surprised me was the sheer level of enthusiasm and friendliness with which these neighbours picked up rakes and brooms, pickers and bags to clean up their communities. There were smiles, calls of, “here, let me help you,” people holding bags open for each other, lessons, games, and at the end of the morning a sense of deep accomplishment.
It’s so important that people feel a sense of belonging in their communities but these clean-ups offer more than that. They offer a sense of ownership. With ownership comes the understanding of responsibility and a feeling of pride.
When we feel responsible for and proud of our communities we keep them clean, safe, and accessible to everyone who wants to enjoy them.
Thank you to everyone who came out to volunteer this weekend. You taught me a lesson in what it truly means to belong to a community.
If you want to register as a team, a small group or as an individual for the Tim Hortons Cleaning the Capital Campaign you have until May 15 to register online and until May 31 to submit your final tallies. I’ll be signing up and I’d encourage you all to do so, too.
And don’t forget, you’re not limited to cleaning up just because it’s spring. The neighbourhoods we visited over the past couple of weeks were clean and well-cared for already thanks to the volunteers who clean up all year round whenever they see work that needs to be done.