There is no denying that Worcester has been growing and evolving over the past five-plus years, both visually and economically. It is expected that the city will continue with this momentum, which in turn will attract more business and residents to the area. As Worcester grows, it is important to do so in a way that incorporates the current residents and businesses, as well as the prospective newcomers. Furthermore, these new developments are a chance for Worcester to commit to sustainability and green pathways for growth. By incorporating feedback from residents and businesses while focusing development efforts on environmentalism and sustainability, there is an opportunity to embrace these changes in a positive and effective way in order to remodel the city and provide an example for what the future of urban growth and development in New England could look like.
The purpose of the Worcester Green Corps (WGC) is to ensure that as Worcester grows, we include current residents and local businesses in our conversations about development and sustainability. Before the summer cleanups and programming officially began, the five district managers drove throughout the city and prioritized the regions which needed the most attention and TLC. Specifically, they evaluated areas that had been recognized as priority areas by residents, businesses, and city councilors. As the program continued throughout the summer, the WGC has continued taking feedback from residents as to which neighborhoods they would like to see cleaned promptly. The district managers then broke the neighborhoods up into “sites,” which focused on certain streets for the day with the youth workers. The sites were then ranked, and a schedule for the six-week program was made. Over the course of the summer, the schedule was flexible, changing regularly as the needs changed as well.
The WGC teams — which consist of nearly 20 high-school-aged students through Worcester Community Action Council’s YouthWorks Summer Jobs Program — worked four days a week to beautify the city. They tackled projects in both residential and commercial areas, cleaning litter off the streets and providing much-needed maintenance to some neglected public spaces. The team covered more than 30 miles of streets in 18 neighborhoods, picking up more than 4,000 pounds of litter. In addition to the litter cleanups, they added fresh flowers to planters in the Main South area, helped maintain overgrowth on sidewalks and parks, and provided power-washing and other cleanup services to Chamber member businesses.
The positive feedback from the community has been beneficial to the program in a number of ways. It has been encouraging to the youth workers who receive positive comments and enthusiasm from residents while they are working in the field. People will often shout and honk as they drive by our clean teams – easily identified by their bright green shirts – or cheer them on from windows of their homes. Residents have even stopped by work sites to provide snacks and cold drinks to the youth workers as well – something which is always much appreciated, especially as they work on the hot and humid days of July and August.
Additionally, there has been a significant interest in the program from community members and businesses. The list of volunteers is growing, and organizations have been working to schedule neighborhood cleanup days as well as provide resources to help the program grow. As the WGC updates its progress on social media (follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to stay up to date), the comments from Worcester residents have been unanimous: the work from Worcester Green Corps’ summer youth program is creating visible change in our neighborhoods and reinstilling a sense of pride in the Worcester community.
It’s empowering to see so much positive community feedback, but this is only the beginning. When people thank him on the street, Kisero Rosario, one of the youth workers, says, “I feel grateful, but they themselves need to do more.” Moving forward, it will be essential that members of the community work together to keep the streets clean. One of the biggest obstacles to maintaining these efforts is illegal dumping throughout the city. In fact, while out on cleanup days this summer, WGC team members have witnessed people throwing trash out their car windows or simply dropping litter on the ground rather than carrying it to the nearest receptacle.
Though the WGC has been working hard to beautify Worcester’s neighborhoods, it is ultimately the responsibility of those who work and live here to maintain the cleanliness of these areas. “Hopefully this work inspires the community to put effort into the beautification of Worcester,” said Ian Njihia, one of the district managers. We all have a role to play in keeping this city clean, green, and beautiful. Let’s work together to make it happen.
Though the first annual summer element of this collaborative initiative has come to a close, you can still expect to hear about WGC operations in the fall. There are currently several community cleanup events being planned, as well as some other beautification and greenery projects. The volunteer roster continues to grow, allowing WGC operations to continue on a regular basis. Furthermore, the WGC hopes to assist businesses and residents in efforts to develop the city in a sustainable way. As Worcester expands economically, it is important to recognize these changes as a chance to remodel the way that we conduct business, ensuring that community members and environmentalism are included in conversations about growth.
I encourage anyone – company or nonprofit, business or individual – who wants to get involved in this effort to get in contact with me about ways you can help Worcester Green Corps make a difference. I can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 508.753.2924 ext. 233. I look forward to connecting on how we can work together to make a greener and more sustainable future for Worcester, this city we all love.
Miranda Hotham is the Worcester Green Corps Coordinator, an employee of the Worcester Chamber. She can be reached by email here.
This story was originally published in the August 2021 edition of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper, a quarterly publication of the Chamber. All newspaper editions are archived here.