If you noticed armies of people clad in lime-green reflective vests and wielding brooms, fishing shopping carts out of ditches, or forcibly erasing graffiti on Saturday, April 9, you probably weren’t the only one. By 10 a.m. around 400 volunteers had checked in for the annual Eastside cleanup event — and more were expected, according to Dale Swanson, one of the orchestrators of the event. With such a high volume of volunteers, their presence was certainly conspicuous in the Eastside.

Nathalie Manyo at this weekend's cleanup
Mary Crookston

This city event is spearheaded by Looking Good Santa Barbara, a city program aiming to reduce graffiti and litter and increase recycling. The event was largely carried out by a fusion of local churches enthusiastic about serving their community. In 2004, Calvary Chapel and the city joined forces to create the first annual cleanup event, according to Executive Coordinator of Looking Good Santa Barbara, Lorraine Cruz Carpenter. Now many churches have enlisted in the movement and have mobilized their congregations to make the Eastside of Santa Barbara truly look good.

Their mission was ambitious: 50 trees to plant, stray shopping carts to remove along with litter and graffiti, and a community to inform about illegal trash dumping. Focusing on Milpas Street and the surrounding roads, the hoard of volunteers was certainly not lacking tasks. They also placed a large emphasis on weed abatement. “Santa Barbara is a non-chemical pesticide area, so weed abatement has to happen by hand and with equipment, and when the city is low on money it’s one of the first things to be neglected. So we’re sending out teams with weed-whackers and trash bags to clean up some of these areas,” said Swanson.

Swanson’s youth group from New Life Church passed out around 2,000 fliers last week letting people know that the gathering place for the event — Eastside Park — would have a dumpster for community use, and aimed to limit the number of street corners sporting unwanted pieces of furniture and other undesirable trash. Volunteers distributed door hangers with trash disposal guidelines, laying out instructions for different kinds of waste.

All of the volunteers were dedicating their free time on the breezy, sunny Saturday to the event, but one volunteer, Bryan Yamane, was even willing to give up part of his birthday. Also a member of New Life, he “wanted to clean up the city and help other people.” Yamane planned to celebrate later by skating with his friends, but for the morning, he was focusing on something bigger than himself.

All unified by those luminous vests and a common goal, people of different age groups and backgrounds teamed up to make the eastside beautiful. This is one thing Carpenter appreciates about the event — the “team spirit of people in the community working together.”


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