While undoubtedly there are new levels of private investment taking place in Worcester that create jobs, expand the tax base, and generate economic activity, there has been one negative issue that has continued to fester: the amount of trash and litter along city streets, and in neighborhoods and environmentally sensitive areas.
Here at the Chamber, we have observed this problem and have regularly heard complaints about it from Chamber member businesses and Chamber board members alike. Recently, former Worcester Mayor Raymond Mariano, who now writes a weekly column in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, wrote about litter throughout the city, as did Worcester Magazine columnist Janice Harvey. Both correctly stated that a more collective effort was needed to address this challenge.
Back in August of 2019, the Chamber strongly backed City Manager Augustus’ Comprehensive Clean Worcester initiative that he presented to the City Council. Unfortunately, after nearly a year of deliberation and hearings, these recommendations were not adopted.
As a result, Chamber staff and the Chamber Executive Board began internal discussions about what role we could play in partnership with the city, our members, and other organizations to address this persistent challenge. Given the Chamber’s 146-year-old history with the business community, many of whom have an interest in a clean and presentable city, we reached out to the United Way of Central Massachusetts. The United Way, with its 101-year-old history, has a similarly deep relationship with the many community nonprofits that exist in the city. United Way President and CEO Tim Garvin and his board immediately stepped up to partner with us and begin a conversation with City Manager Augustus on how we could build a sustainable, year-round, public-private partnership to clean and beautify the city.
The result is the formation of the Worcester Green Corps. The Chamber will hire and fund a year-round Worcester Green Corps Coordinator. This position will look to support existing volunteer cleanup and beautification efforts as well as fill gaps where they exist. Additionally, the coordinator will oversee a summer jobs cleanup effort funded by the city in partnership with the Worcester Community Action Council’s (WCAC) YouthWorks Summer Jobs Program and MassHire of Central Massachusetts (MassHire). WCAC and MassHire run the YouthWorks Summer Jobs Program annually, employing Worcester’s young people at a variety of locations across the city.
Each of the five city council districts will have a dedicated Summer Clean Team of five students plus a site manager for a total involvement of 25 high school students and five site managers. The Chamber, the Worcester Business Development Corporation (WBDC), and the United Way have agreed to fund the summer district site manager positions. Also, Fallon Health has stepped up as an early sponsor of Green Corps.
These young people will not only be involved in cleanup and beautification efforts. One day each week they’ll take part in tours and workshops introducing them to educational and employment opportunities in the growing environmental and green jobs sectors of the economy.
Additionally, we’ll form an advisory board of business, environmental, nonprofit, and neighborhood leaders from across the city to assist us in building collaborations and identifying projects and sites in need of cleanup.
The Chamber hopes to have the Worcester Green Corps Coordinator position filled within the coming weeks, aiming for a June 1 start date. The so-called ‘Clean Teams’ and summer cleanup jobs for high schoolers are expected to start shortly after the school year ends, likely around the end of June.
It’s not just the job of the city to ensure we have clean and safe communities, but rather, everyone has a role to play. Everyone has a responsibility. And everyone wants to live in a city they can enjoy free of litter and trash. That’s why we’re so thrilled to announce this partnership program that’s a true collaboration between several organizations and businesses in the city. Through the Worcester Green Corps, we’ll all come together to help keep Worcester beautiful!
Timothy P. Murray is the president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.
This story was originally published in the May 16 Sunday edition of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. It was reprinted in the May 2021 edition of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper, a quarterly publication of the Chamber. All newspaper editions are archived here.