This past weekend on April 17th, the Near West Side Partners in collaboration with the United Methodist Children’s Services hosted a community cleanup in the Near West Side and Washington Park. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the event either, sunny and in the 50s. This community cleanup had over 200 members from around the community, 200 bags of trash collected, and over three dumpsters, all in a matter of a few hours.
People from all around the community, from Marquette Students to children from Washington Park to Milwaukee Public Works commissioner Jeffery Polenske, all joined together to clean up after a long and brutal pandemic winter.

Over 200+ volunteers met up at Tiefenthaler Park with our very own State Rep. Evan Goyke giving the crowd some inspiration for the day.


Near West Side Partners Executive Director Keith Stanley said in an interview with FOX6 Milwaukee that this was about bringing the community together to do something good. Beyond the beautification of the area, Stanley stated that there are also potential economic impacts to keeping the community clean. He stated that a clean neighborhood “allows us to recruit investments in the neighborhood, open new businesses, bring employment to the community, so that is exciting for us.”
Multiple members of Near West Side Partners and the community were also involved, including Bobby McQuay, Savanah Brooks, and Duane Henderson Stokes, who all contributed to the cleanup in different capacities.
Bobby McQuay, Near West Side Partners’ Outreach Coordinator, acted as the cleanup’s planner, organizer, and go-between. He provided support for any difficulties that occurred during the cleanup as well. He said in an email that this cleanup “brings people together and fosters a sense of hope. It also inspires the community residents to try to keep the area cleaner.” He also said that the “immediate impact [of the cleanup] is one of joy and gratefulness.”

Savanah Brooks, a Near West Side Partners Ambassador, traversed all seven neighborhoods in the Near West Side to hang over 1500 door hangers to recruit volunteers for the cleanup. She thinks that the cleanup provided families with a chance to get outdoors and get active and see neighbors and friends face to face, which is something most have not been able to do due to the pandemic. She thinks that the cleanup will give residents of the community a safe space to live, work, and play for years to come.

Duane Stokes-Henderson, another Near West Side Partners Ambassador, also passed out flyers to spread awareness for the cleanup. On the day of the cleanup, he was in charge of transporting equipment to volunteers and helping guide them to the areas that needed cleaning the most. He stated that the cleanup was one of the first events Near West Side Partners hosted since the pandemic so it was a good way to communicate to the community that Near West Side Partners was ready to come back and continue serving the community. He also said that the long-term effect of the community cleanup is that it will keep the community cleaner and give residents a chance to continue to connect with one another.

Some volunteers started at Near West Side favorite Pete’s Pop to focus on Vliet street and the surrounding area.

Michael S Maistelman, an attorney for VK Citgo, a gas station, grocery store, and convenience store operator throughout Milwaukee, sponsored the cleanup providing food and water into the cleanup from his client. He wrote that the cleanup brings the community together for a common purpose, strengthening the group and community. He also stated that the long-term effects of the cleanup will be positive “as long as the group continues to participate regularly… If the community continues to take an active role in their neighborhoods, those neighborhoods will thrive and attract more people and investments from businesses.”

This is only the first of a series of cleanups to happen this spring, including the next one on May 8th. For more information on last weekend’s cleanup, here are a few articles:

You can also see more pictures of the event on our Facebook page.

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