LOUISIANA – It all started in a grim moment, when John Kroeze’s car was rear-ended, outside of the building he is renovating to serve as a non-profit cafe.
That, combined with some other car trouble, meant he began walking to the site on Georgia Street, coming down 4th Street.
“I was walking about a mile to work. I started to [notice] there’s a lot of stuff on the streets. I started picking it up. I’m carrying it down in my arms, and I deposited it in the garbage can right there,” Kroeze said, pointing across the street from the future site of the cafe at 4th and Georgia.
He began to realize that the problem might also be an opportunity: to address some of the negativity in the town by encouraging people to make a positive contribution.
“So I just wrote [on Facebook], ‘Hey guys, why don’t we do something about it?’” Kroeze said.
The plan, put into practice by Kroeze and fellow organizer Mike Dallas: to gather up locals interested in making a difference for a day of cleaning and beautification.
Kroeze estimated that the roughly 70-80 people who turned out — including church groups, school groups and scouts — covered about 70 blocks Saturday morning.
As a measure of the idea’s appeal, Dallas noted the distances people were willing to come to pitch in.
“We had people from Troy, Louisiana and Bowling Green, all coming together to help the city. People drove an hour to get here. Incredible,” Dallas said.
Kroeze said they did their best not to over-plan: a hub at their coffee shop, a way to take away the garbage they picked up and free hot dogs prepared by Bill Hobbs at the end of the morning and not too much else.
“Lets keep it simple,” Kroeze said. “Lets do it.”
Dallas and Kroeze expressed satisfaction with the results.
“Its been great. People meeting one another — its community,” Kroeze said. “And I’ve already had people come by and say ‘things look better already.’”