Volunteers 'rock the block' in Elkhart neighborhood cleanup effort

LaCasa, Inc., and more than 40 volunteers gathered on the south side of Elkhart Saturday for a block party and neighborhood cleanup.

Posted on June 7, 2014 at 3:34 p.m. | Updated on June 7, 2014 at 3:58 p.m.

ELKHART — LaCasa, Inc., and more than 40 volunteers gathered on the south side of Elkhart Saturday to help a neighborhood clean up their street.

Jason Moreno, community organizer for LaCasa, said he’s found block party cleanups, which LaCasa calls “Rock the Block,” can help meet the needs of a neighborhood and create a sense of community at the same time.

“What we do is we encourage outside people to come in and work hand-in-hand with residents to do some aesthetic curb improvements on a certain area,” he said.

Volunteers were divided into six crews on Saturday to clean up yards and alleys on Cleveland Avenue between Prairie Street and Benham Avenue.

“We start the morning off pretty strong, get music going, volunteers start coming in throughout the morning,” Moreno said. “We get them assigned to different crews. These crews take them out and do an assigned list of tasks hand-in-hand with other residents.”

This is the third Rock the Block event LaCasa has organized in the past two years. Volunteer coordinator Kate Irelan said residents she’s talked to seem to appreciate that the neighborhood is being cleaned up by people who live there as well as outsiders.

“I think we’re starting to get recognition,” she said.

Moreno and LaCasa staff knocked on doors before cleanup day to ask residents what they needed done. Trash removal, weed eating and lawn-mowing were all popular requests.

“One thing that is consistent in these neighborhoods that we do in the Roosevelt area is that we deal with a lot of elderly and retired people,” Moreno said. “A lot of people have had yardwork concerns because some of their things have been stolen, so they’re not able to keep up with it.”

While the adult and teen volunteers removed trash and helped with yardwork, neighborhood kids worked with a LaCasa volunteer to plant petunias in pots and deliver them to their neighbors. Volunteers from Builders of Hope, a local nonprofit that repairs homes for people in need, rebuilt the roof of a Cleveland Avenue house with help from Rock the Block workers.

Keshia Woods, volunteering for Rock the Block, shoveled grass clippings and dirt off a sidewalk while another volunteer whacked weeds. She said she hopes more community members get involved with Rock the Block.

“I’m here to serve my community,” she said. “We’re here to help in any way we can, regardless if it’s cleaning up the yard or just being a friendly neighbor. Whatever it takes to be a difference.”

Moreno said that’s the point of Rock the Block.

“That’s pretty much what we’re doing with these events, is building community,” Moreno said. “It’s a side effect that everything gets cleaned up and looks better in the end, but really this is about making the community stronger.”


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