On Saturday, a few dozen people gathered in South Los Angeles with brooms, gloves, and garbage bags and walked slowly on Western Avenue as they picked up trash before handing out hygiene kits to an unhoused community.
The event was organized by Dime Jones of Clean Up South Central as well as Girl Gang Crazy, a group primarily focused on empowering women that began as a running group. Jones previously organized a community clean-up event in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd last year.
The group cleaned up a mile long stretch of Western Avenue between Florence and Manchester avenues.
After the clean-up, organizers and attendees prepared hygiene kits for distribution. The kits included items such as menstrual pads, chapstick and bottled water.
Jessica, an attendee at the cleanup who works with Community Organized Relief Efforts and the city of Los Angeles, said she felt compelled to help after volunteering at testing sites and working with the unhoused community. Jessica also worked with Project Roomkey, an initiative by the city of Los Angeles to place unhoused residents in hotel rooms purchased by the city.
“Everyone’s so tired of being indoors that being able to connect with people with a common cause to improve our neighborhood is really nice,” Jessica said. “Neighborhood cleanup is just a gateway to be able to meet other people who have the same desires, to improve the community.”
Jones said she had always felt like helping her community came naturally, but she felt even more compelled after her first event.
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“I feel like it’s just something I’ve always been doing. My grandfather was a community person, so I learned from him,” Jones said. “I don’t even really look at it as community work. I feel like it’s just my duty if I’m from here.”
Mariah Dyson, an organizer with Girl Gang Crazy, said that the work for these events goes beyond showing up with brooms and gloves.
“There’s a lot of work that goes in behind it, to even get out here,” Dyson said. The work of Clean Up South Central and Girl Gang Crazy also involves more long-term community initiatives like helping students get computers and bringing healthier grocery stores to food deserts — places where access to quality food is scarce or unavailable — in South Los Angeles.
While the group cleaned, they listened to music, talked and laughed. Some brought their dogs and children. Drivers occasionally honked or waved out of their cars, some even stopping to express gratitude.
One attendee who lived nearby, Jess, brought her six-year-old son Cain. Jess, who attended the first cleanup, said that coming out to help was just as much for her as it was for the community.
“I’m a big believer in that there’s no such thing as a selfless good deed,” Jess said. “I ended up feeling great about it, which motivated me to come back next time and bring Cain along.”
Cain also wanted to help his community, but he had other motivations, too.
“I just wanted to be nice and get the cheeseburgers again,” he said. His mom agreed: After the cleanup, they’d get some cheeseburgers.