By Matthew George, founder of “I Love Thy Hood” in 2019, and Germantown United CDC’s Business Development Manager since 2021
(edited from an interview with Revive’s POC)
Clean streets takes all of us.
While trash is how I wound up working for Germantown United Community Development Corporation, a lot of my job consists of providing information and support for all the businesses in the Germantown-Chelten corridor. If someone needs a particular resource, or help with grant writing or loan applications or anything. The city has all these different programs, that I’m here to share with the community.
In addition, I’m pretty much the supervisor of GU’s trash collection team, a relatively new development funded thru the City’s Taking Care of Business program, which aims to promote local economies by supporting cleaner, more inviting places to shop and do business — particularly in under-resourced neighborhoods.
Places like Center City, Roxborough, Mt Airy, North Central, etc. have established Business Improvement Districts or Special Service Districts that pool fees from all the local businesses and landlords in a commercial district, to pay for upkeep and improvements to the streets in that corridor. Not the case in Germantown, where their SSD was cancelled in 2019 for poor performance. This is where the TCB program comes into play.
The Department of Commerce pays community non-profits like GU to hire “cleaning ambassadors” to cover our corridor from Coulter to Washington Lane on Germantown Ave, from Baynton all the way down to Morris on Chelten. That’s getting cleaned five days a week, which is really needed in our area. To staff is service, we work with Depaul USA, who provide supportive and affordable housing (among other services) for individuals in need.
I love that I’m making a much bigger difference now than I did when I started back in 2019. Back then, I was just a regular citizen, working a nine to five. Coming home every day to streets full of litter. One day, I’d had enough. I created a GoFundMe, asking the community for contributions to buy big orange trash cans that I would take responsibility for emptying. I started with ten cans, and now today we’ve got over 130! Behind everyone, there’s a neighbor who’s dedicated to their block, their community, and their city.
The TCB program, alone, is giving real opportunities to neighborhoods who’ve had enough, and are ready to organize for change. Everyone loves to talk about elections, but real change starts at the community level. I never noticed this until I started working for the CDC. Now I see all the little local systems impacting our lives far more than decisions being made in Washington. And all the ways people can get involved: public meetings, clean-ups and events. It’s easy to find community groups online, and reach out to them.
We’re in a world where the tendency is to keep to ourselves, but that’s missing out on all the people and the businesses and organizations around you. I’m convinced a big part of the trash solution is knowing each other better. If we fully understood all the energy it takes to make a livable community, we’d be better motivated to take care of ours and work together to improve it.
Obviously nobody wants to be responsible for other people’s trash. Is that my litter in the gutter? No. But at the end of the day, it’s my mess. It’s in front of my house, on my block, in my community. Cleaning up is a matter of pride, and a way to show I care. There’s often a ripple effect, too: good deeds inspire others to follow suit, and before you know it, you’re leading a litter crew. That’s how real change happens, block by block.
Yes You CAN!
Sponsor one of ILTH’s 44-gallon industrial orange receptacles for your neighborhood. On average, cans need to be emptied twice per week – quite a commitment, but what an impact: that’s 352 gallons of garbage a month or 4,224 gallons per year! Sign up at ilovethyhood.org. We’re also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @ilovethyhood
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