Old Town’s Neighborhood All-Volunteer Cleanup Crew

Pitching In

By Louise Muth

Marjorie Scott knows that being a long-term resident of Alexandria since 1976 also means being a part of caring for its upkeep. For almost a year, she has been carrying a dustpan and broom in her car and picking up the trash and cigarette butts she sees in Old Town. Through the Adopt-A-Block program, Marjorie adopted Prince Street between Union Street and the Potomac River, and in these blocks alone, she has removed almost one hundred cigarette butts at a time from sidewalk cracks using sticks and an enormous amount of trash.

During a conversation at the Boat Club, where she is a member, Marjorie was with a group of people who described feeling disappointed that Old Town was “becoming a trash dump.” They were tired of complaining about it, so they decided to do something. As evidence that each person really can make a difference, Catherine Joyce, Eric Edgington, Caroline Nicholl and Marjorie started holding meetings to discuss how they could help clean up Old Town. They formed a committee, grew the initiative and hosted several cleanup events at well-known favorite Old Town locations, like Founders Park, King Street Gardens, and Oronoco Park.

They ultimately named their initiative “We Love Old Town” and formed their official mission: Citizens engaged with city staff and businesses to keep Old Town clean, attractive and well maintained. They engaged with Catherine Foltz, the President of the Old Town Business and Professional Association, to develop ideas of how to get businesses involved.

Now, We Love Old Town hosts cleanup events on the second Saturday of every month, inviting anyone interested to meet at Market Square from 9-11am, weather permitting, and “pitch in” together by picking up trash. At some of these events, they have had as many as twenty helping hands volunteers working together in community service.

“The cleanup events are a good teambuilding opportunity for any groups, like businesses, church groups, families, Scouts of America, and more, who want to do build camaraderie while doing good for the community,” says Marjorie. “They are also a good chance for local individuals to meet other people and get involved in Old Town.”

In a way that illustrates how Old Town, a charming town that is part of an enormous DC metropolis area, is still similar to small quaint rural towns where everyone knows each other, Marjorie mentions many people in the city and local businesses that have already helped pitch in. For instance, the city staff have provided litter grabbers, gloves and yellow safety vests, managers of Trader Joes have given trash bags and water, the Starbucks team have provided snacks and coffee, Trae LaMond at Chadwicks offered the use of the restaurant for the committee’s quarterly happy hours and Jay Thomas at Alphagraphics.com provided the committee with a banner. Tom Roberts, a past president of the Alexandria Rotary, asked We Love Old Town for a list of what the Rotary can do for community service, which is one of the Rotary’s four avenues, and mentioned the initiative at the Rotary meeting.

We Love Old Town wants local business and residence owners to “act like they own the place” by taking ownership of the piece of land (12 feet) in front of their business or residence, including sweeping, regular cleanup, mulch and beautification of tree wells, and to Adopt-A-Block where they live or work.

“The cleanup events are important, but more than that, it is about developing a mindset. What a difference it would make if every daily passerby picked up a couple of pieces of trash, for example. With so many avid runners and exercisers in Old Town, imagine the impact we could have if each picked up a loose cup or paper along their route and tossed it in the trash,” says Marjorie.

Trash Selfie

This could be you. If you are that passerby or runner picking up trash to help make Alexandria shine, or if you decide pitch in during a monthly Saturday cleanup event, share your trash selfie with Zebra. Take a picture of yourself cleaning up and send it to editor@zebrapress.org. A compilation of the best photos will be run to celebrate Earth Day 2019 (April 22nd).