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Mohammed Nuru, Deputy Director for Operations, SF Dept of Public Works

Every month the Department of Public Works (DPW) dives into each of the eleven Supervisorial Districts around San Francisco to rally volunteers and partners to make San Francisco residential districts, commercial districts, schools, and parks safer and cleaner through our Community Clean Team program.

Arbor Day – March 12, 2011

Created over 10 years ago, by then Public Works Director, San Francisco’s current Mayor, Ed Lee, Community Clean Team has become a mainstay in the DPW’s operations.

This year we brought the Community Clean Team in with a bang at the Ping Yuen Housing Development on February 12th where we celebrated the Clean Team kick off and Chinese New Year with fireworks and Lion Dancers; volunteers helped with landscaping projects, school improvements and even repainted the Broadway Tunnel.  In March, we celebrated Arbor Day at Washington High School in the Richmond District where we planted dozens of trees along Geary Boulevard, and in April we worked in and around the Tenderloin and South of Market cleaning up trash, and removing graffiti in honor of Earth Day.  In between those Community Clean Team events, we’ve hosted special events with volunteer partners from all around San Francisco and the greater Bay Area – our partnership with Starbucks’ Global Month of Service event helped us clear over 60,000 pounds of green waste from the Great Highway, and plant over 500 plants.

Since February, over 3,000 volunteers rolled up their sleeves and dedicated at-least three hours to work side by side with Department of Public Works employees. Volunteers help leverage the city’s resources tremendously; DPW employees alone cannot complete the amount of work our volunteers complete.  And during these challenging economic times, utilizing volunteers has become one of the most cost-effective ways to accomplish our work.

Over the past three months, our 3,000 plus volunteers contributed at-least 9,000 hours of community service to the Department of Public Works, totaling $270,000.00 worth of labor.  I can comfortably state The Department of Public Works San Francisco works more with volunteers than any other Public Works organization in the nation.

Help us continue our momentum by volunteering for the Community Clean Team May 21st in honor of National Public Works Week at Balboa High School beginning at 9am.  For more information email us at volunteer@sfdpw.org

Along with Mayor Lee, all our volunteers, our key partners like Recology, PG&E, Walgreens, Luxor Cab Company, Clean City Coalition, the Academy of Art University, Starbucks, Hilton-Financial District, and the Emerald Fund help sustain the program.

Thank you to all our partners, all who have volunteered, and all who will volunteer.  Together we have and will continue to make a difference in San Francisco.

Mohammed Nuru is Deputy Director for Operations at the San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW).  Follow him on twitter @MrCleanSF

Starbucks Event 4/9/11

 

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We Are Growing Home from NENtv on Vimeo.

“Growing Home”, a new community garden located along Octavia Boulevard in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, is a unique collaboration between a surprising assortment of people. Watch this latest NENtv episode to find out who’s involved.

In 2010, NENtv visited Growing Home on the final volunteer work day needed to fully open the garden to discover a rich assortment of views on what a community garden can do for the community.

The video also features Ed Lee in his pre-Mayoral role!

[Also viewable on Youtube here.]

 


 

Best Graffiti Watch Volunteer Award – Robert Finnell from NENtv on Vimeo.

Robert Finnell has spent countless hours donating his time and energy to help keep San Francisco’s waterfront free of trash and graffiti. After intially starting his work in his own neighborhood, Robert soon joined the SF Graffiti Watch Program and began reaching out further into the community. He now helps to maintain the area surrounding the base of the Bay Bridge and its surrounding neighborhoods.

“Robert (Bob) Finnell has been relentless at removing graffiti and picking up trash at the base of the Bay Bridge in our South Beach neighborhood. He has worked with the DPW, the SFPD, CHP, DPW, our neighborhood organization, and others to make sure that graffiti is removed as soon as it is put up,” said resident Katy Liddell.

“Bob goes out every single day of the week to inspect the foot of Bryant Street (onramp to Bay Bridge), the Harrison offramp, and other surrounding areas. We have a homeless problem here as well, and Bob has to deal with getting yelled at and having rocks thrown at him as he goes on his daily rounds. But, nothing stops him.”

2010 Youth Leadership Award – Mitzi Chavez from NENtv on Vimeo.

Congratulations to the 2010 Neighborhood Youth Leadership Award winner Mitzi Chavez for her work as a youth mentor, educator and peer leader.

“She is truly a positive role model. Her intellectual curiosity and intelligence, open-heartedness, and her communication skills are three of her greatest attributes. This combination shows through in her work both in and outside of Peer Resources. Whether a mentor or an educator, Mitzi’s welcoming nature and true passion for helping others regardless of their diverse needs and backgrounds has had a great impact in many lives,” said resident Sarah Brant.

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Pennsylvania Garden: The Jewel of Potrero Hill from NENtv on Vimeo.

There are no finer examples of one person’s determination transforming an unsightly piece of land into an urban oasis of plants and community than Potrero Hill’s Pennsylvania Garden. In 2008, resident Annie Shaw took a d-shaped piece of land next to the Mariposa Street off ramp on 280 South and began transforming it into a community garden. Soon, the neighborhood got behind her and the result is quite possibly the Jewel of Potrero Hill.

NENtv visits Annie, garden volunteers, and neighbors to find out how Pennsylvania Garden happened and what the rest of San Francisco can learn from Annie and her team’s courage and determination.

 

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NEN Director, Daniel Homsey

On Saturday, July 17th my son Ajaccio and I packed up his Elmo Doll and headed out to watch a community empower itself. Were we heading out to a protest about a planning issue? No. We were going to put on gloves, don the classic orange DPW vest, grab a broom, and work side by side with the neighbors at the third “Pick Up in Polk” event (see photos from the event here).

We pulled up to the staging area and were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd (or rather Ajaccio was). There, community leaders Dawn and Frank of the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association (hear Dawn’s NENfm podcast interview about Middle Polk and the Pick Up on Polk event here) checked people in and assigned them locations along the corridor to work. Next, they trained people on how to properly pick up refuse, handed them a bottle of water, and sent them on their way.

It was a well-oiled machine.

The same thing was happening up and down the whole Polk Street corridor with the folks from Upper and Lower Polk getting suited up and rolling up their sleeves and getting to work as well.

Sometimes, it’s hard to understand why anyone shows up at all. It’s early Saturday morning, it’s chilly out and people are often cleaning up after the late night crowd from the previous day. But volunteers show such zeal and appear to relish the opportunity. In fact the most common complaint was “Someone has already cleaned the area I was assigned – give me a new one!”

Left to Right: Frank, Daniel and AJ, and Dawn

I asked Dawn and Frank why they thought folks seemed so happy to be out doing this kind of work on a Saturday. Dawn shared with me that it’s one of the few ways people get to meet each other and to build relationships with those around them. Frank also pointed out that there is immediate satisfaction for participants to see how they can in just a few short hours make a huge impact on the way their community looks.

In addition to the neighborhood association members and local residents were representatives from the local Walgreens and Wells Fargo branch. Whole Foods kicked in beverages and DPW and its world class crew was doing a first rate job of collecting all of the bags of trash piling up on the curbs.

For a NEN person like me – it was a beautiful thing.

After an hour dressed in a bright orange vest and working man gloves and pushing a broom around, Ajaccio was ready for a nap. So we packed up Elmo and drove off. I saw a group of folks sitting down for a well deserved lunch, laughing and sharing stories about the random things they found during their morning.

You’d think they just won a huge planning decision.

Daniel Homsey is Director of the Neighborhood Empowerment Network. He can be contacted at daniel.homsey@sfgov.org.

 

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Annie Shaw, Founder, Pennsylvania Garden

In my last NEN blog I told you about how Pennsylvania Garden (map) got started – from guerrilla garden to official San Francisco Street Park! Well we’re now in our second year, and the larger plants are looking pretty established. We’re still working on some areas, but when I look around the garden what I realize we need is hardscape improvements. You know – retaining walls, terraces, paths, benches and fences.

That stuff all costs money – and to do them right can take quite a lot. I’ve spent a lot of my own money making the garden what it is, but I just don’t have thousands more lying around (I wish!) With that in mind, we’ve decided to try and get some grants to fund the garden, and I tasked my volunteers Emily and Josh with writing grant proposals and maintaining a budget for the garden.

To my surprise they agreed, and equipped with the knowledge I gleaned from attending the San Francisco Parks Trust‘s (SFPT) grant writing class this year they have jumped in and have already applied for some funding. They might literally be worth their weight in gold – wait and see!

Where does a person find out about grants they can apply for, you ask? Well the aforementioned grant writing class was a great source of leads. We’ve also been tipped off to grants available from groups specific to our neighborhood, and through researching grants on a national level. Get your Google on, and make friends with your local neighborhood groups – they can help you.

Most of these grants require you to be a 501(c)3 nonprofit though.  And at that mountain of paperwork I balked, I confess. Luckily, once again, it was SFPT to the rescue! They will become our fiscal sponsor – any grants will be awarded to them in our name, the granting body gets the tax write-off, and we get the cash. Happy days.

However, this could take some months. In the meantime, we still have stuff that needs to get paid for. One such item is the information kiosk for the front of the garden.  This will be a metal structure that will house a weatherproof covered corkboard to hold signs that detail garden news, ways to get involved, brochures and dog poop bags.

So with that fundraising goal in mind, we decided to hold a plant sale! All the volunteers met and discussed ideas, and May 1st was chosen as the best day. We all started propagating plants and asking for donations from our friends in the neighborhood, and a frenzy of postering, emailing, watering, potting, and sowing started.

On the day of the sale we had doubts that anyone would show up, but in the end we made $1100 and were so busy helping customers we didn’t get a lunch break! A big success on many levels. It brought our merry band of volunteers closer, it raised cash and awareness for the garden, and it even helped our grant raising efforts: when a granting body sees that a community is behind a project, and that the volunteers have worked to fund it too, they are more likely to give funds as the project is just more likely to succeed. And everyone loves a winner!

So, if getting a garden started seems like too much money and work to you, take my advice: attend the SFPT’s upcoming workshops and see what you can get via grants.

And if you just want to do a little gardening one weekend, I have a regular monthly volunteer day on the first Saturday of each month from 11am-1pm where anyone can drop by and try their hand at gardening – check out my blog and come visit the garden soon! I’d be happy to show you around.

Annie Shaw is the founder of Pennsylvania Garden in the Potrero Hill neighborhood.

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