June 26, 2014
Neighborhood Cleanup Underway on Blaisdell Street in Rockford
By Brent Lewis, Rockford Register Star
ROCKFORD — Chopping up and hauling away three fallen trees from a backyard and clearing out a single-car garage filled from the floor to the rafters with scrap wood, metal, tires and debris is a project for several weekends. Maybe the entire summer.
But arm 20 to 30 youths and young adults with work gloves, a chain saw, wheelbarrows and rakes, the task is completed in a matter of hours.
Matricia Walker, 39, who is renting a house in the 1100 block of Blaisdell Street, witnessed and helped the small army of church and community volunteers transform her backyard to a place she was fearful of entering to a place where she now envisions planting a vegetable garden.
“They should call themselves The Church of We Get It Done,” Walker said. “I’m grateful.”
This is the fourth year of Project 10:13, the massive neighborhood cleanup spearheaded by Rock Church, 6732 Harrison Ave.
Volunteers explained the name’s reference to the verse from the Gospel of Matthew: “If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it. If it is not, let your peace return to you.”
Wednesday began the four-day effort. About 180 volunteers from Rockford, Freeport, Durand, Dakota, Chicago and Duluth will take on 100 projects on 80 properties on Blaisdell Street between Avon Street and Central Avenue and Furman and Fairview streets, Associate Pastor Jared Katke said.
The work can be as simple as cutting grass and trimming bushes to painting fences and staining decks to tearing down dilapidated sheds — on occupied and on abandoned, boarded-up sites.
“This is awesome,” said Hannah Fehr, 17, of Dakota. She and Nathaniel Smith, 18, of Dakota are participating in the project as part of the Highland Community College Servant Leadership program.
Katke said Project 10:13 began with an invitation from the West Gateway Coalition, a residential neighborhood association. He said many of the initial cleanup efforts were too overwhelming for many of the homeowners and renters to tackle alone.
“The first year, we did a two-block area on Blaisdell. The second year was about the same. The third year, other congregations got involved and we did a six-block area between Avon and Central.”
The city, which lauded Project 10:13 at Monday’s City Council meeting, is pitching in by providing Dumpsters and hauling away yard waste.
Katke said this year’s cleanup began in April when members canvassed the area with city officials, identified projects, then sent waiver forms asking landlords and homeowners for their consent to spruce up the property. About 40 percent responded, Katke said.
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