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Spring Cleanup Highlights Sense of Community in Spring Garden

Philadelphia’s 9th Annual Spring Cleanup took place on Saturday, April 16. Armed with rakes, brooms, and shovels, thousands of volunteers took to the streets across Philadelphia to clear storm drains, pick up litter, and remove a winter’s worth of unwanted build up.

In the Spring Garden neighborhood of Philadelphia, volunteers gathered in the community garden at the corner of 18th and Wallace before heading out to their assigned outposts in the neighborhood. Sergio Armani, the organizer for this year’s cleanup in Spring Garden, estimated that close to 80 volunteers had checked in ahead of the 9 AM start time. Dozens more would be participating unofficially, using their own supplies to organize smaller cleanups on their own blocks.

Spring Garden Cleanup

/Michael Hanisco

Such a great turnout for this annual event highlights the unique sense of community that exists in the area, according to resident Rob Platton. “I see Spring Garden as more of a community than a neighborhood. It’s a very diverse, very stable, and family oriented place,” he said.

Justino Navarro, President of the Spring Garden Civic Association (SGCA), agreed with that assessment. He stressed the association’s efforts to reach out to everyone in the community, residents and non-residents alike. Engaging students, renters, and workers has been a major focus for the association in recent years.  

“An event like this is a great opportunity to provide a forum to everyone who wants to actively participate and be stewards in the community, regardless of their circumstances. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you do, you have a chance to take pride in this place,” Navarro said.

That spirit was on full display just a few blocks away, where 17-year-old Reginald Lewis used a shovel to clear curbside debris. A National Honors Society student at Simon Gratz High School, Reginald works in the Spring Gardens Community Garden two days a week after school. It was there that he overheard fellow gardeners talking about the spring cleanup event and decided that he wanted to participate.

Reginald Lewis

Reginald Lewis/Michael Hanisco

As Reginald explained his plans to go to college and become a lawyer, 12-year-old Kadidia Djire bounded by with her mother in tow. Clad in an oversized pair of worker’s gloves, Kadidia introduced herself with the confidence of someone much older than 12. A fourth grader at nearby Laura W. Waring School, Kadidia keeps her pulse on the neighborhood news — when she’s not busy with homework or cheerleading practice. While most kids were sleeping in or watching cartoons on this beautiful Saturday morning, she was hurrying her mother so they wouldn’t be late for the cleanup.

Engaging young people with a stake in the neighborhood is crucial to fostering and continuing the sense of community that makes Spring Garden so special. A neighborhood is made up of much more than homeowners and taxpayers. Students and children play a major role in the present and future of the neighborhood and the SGCA understands that. Speaking with Reginald and Kadidia, it was clear that the message of community is resonating with the younger generation.    

The neighborhood will continue its spring beautification efforts on April 23 when the Spring Garden Civic Association hosts a tree planting event in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. If Saturday is any indication, the turnout for that event will be representative of Spring Garden itself: diverse, engaged, and proud.

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