Bonding over Earth Day

St. Catherine University first-year physical therapy students Taylor Hutchins, left, and Brittany Lehner grab gloves before picking up garbage and cleaning graffiti near Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis on Wednesday. The event was one of many the Cedar-Riverside Community Collaboration Group planned this week for Earth Day.

Holly Peterson

St. Catherine University first-year physical therapy students Taylor Hutchins, left, and Brittany Lehner grab gloves before picking up garbage and cleaning graffiti near Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis on Wednesday. The event was one of many the Cedar-Riverside Community Collaboration Group planned this week for Earth Day.

Elizabeth Smith

Cedar-Riverside neighborhood organizations turned Earth Day into a weeklong program aimed at promoting a sense of community among residents.
 
Neighborhood leaders dedicated the week before Earth Day on Wednesday to community service and engagement. The event’s activities brought together community organizations and area businesses to engage residents while still managing to clean up the area for the 45th annual Earth Day.
 
“Even the preschoolers are out walking around with their little bags picking up trash,” said Jennifer Weber, athletic director for the Cedar-Riverside Community School. 
 
Area businesses, organizations and youth leaders make up the Community Collaboration Group, which facilitated at least one activity each day throughout the week. 
 
And while the week’s cold and sometimes rainy weather deterred some of the events, participants still managed to plant seeds and scrub away graffiti in the spirit of the day. 
 
West Bank Community Coalition Director Mohamed Mohamed said he hopes the name of the event, “This Is My Neighborhood,” will become a motto for the neighborhood.
 
“I like it because we live in this neighborhood, we work in this neighborhood, and we’re stakeholders in this neighborhood,” Mohamed said.
 
The Community Collaboration Group began informal monthly meetings in February to talk about projects each organization in the group is doing to ensure there isn’t any overlap between them, Weber said.
 
Community activist Abdirizak Bihi first suggested the Community Collaboration Group meet as a way of making organizations aware of the work the others in the group were doing. 
 
The idea for a full week of events made sense once it came out that the organizations were all holding their own celebrations, Mohamed said.
 
“It’s a new dawn of becoming productive instead of blaming each other for the lack of resources in the area,” Bihi said. “It’s a smart way to work when you’re short resources.” 
 
Event organizers said they hope this can become an annual activity for the community.
 
“All it is is getting people excited about one little thing they can do,” Weber said.
 
Some of the events weren’t specific to Earth Day. For example, the West Bank Business Association cleaned up neighborhood graffiti on Wednesday, which WBBA Executive Director Jamie Schumacher said the association does about every three months.
 
A group of students from St. Catherine University and the Cedar-Riverside Community School participated and picked up trash, cleaned graffiti and gave business owners along Cedar Avenue South cleanup supplies. 
 
The Community Collaboration Group will continue to meet monthly to discuss ways they can combine their volunteer resources for projects to improve the neighborhood.