Hertel Avenue is looking a little cleaner today. Parts of Bailey Avenue and Allentown will likely be able to boast the same thing in a week or so.
It’s all thanks to two SUNY Buffalo State graduate students and their small but growing cadre of volunteers committed to making Western New York a better place.
Sunday, the group – known as 1WNY4U – participated in a street cleanup that saw the dozen or so children and adults picking up trash along Hertel.
With buckets, gloves and trash-grabbers donated by local businesses – Home Depot, Valu Home Center and Drew’s True Value – the group spent two hours cleaning up, stopping at one point for a complimentary lunch from Globe Market on Hertel.
“I feel I accomplished something,” said Kaizer O’Berry, 13, a School 81 eighth-grader who joined the Hertel cleanup. “It felt nice to feel like I was making a difference.”
Similar cleanups are scheduled for Bailey and Allentown. When the trash is all gathered, 1WNY4U will turn the litter into a collage titled “Please stop littering! We are running out of glue.” A location for the collage has not yet been determined, but organizers hope for city approval to build it soon on the grounds of the former public library branch at Hertel and Delaware avenues. Meanwhile, the trash will be stored in a bin at a Hertel business.
Sunday’s cleanup is part of a worldwide event associated with World Creativity Week, today through Sunday, as well as Earth Day next Monday.
Group founders Jason Hall and Katrina Whitlow hope 1WNY4U’s involvement will snowball into a major youth volunteer movement in Western New York.
The organization is relatively new. In fact, Sunday’s cleanup was its first project. But there are already big plans under way for the future.
Hall is a graduate student working toward a degree in creative studies from the International Center for Creativity Studies at SUNY Buffalo State.
Whitlow is studying public relations. As part of her masters work, she was required to take a course at the Center for Creativity.
As part of their graduate studies, Hall and Whitlow founded 1WNY4U with a social and practical mission: getting youth volunteers involved in community projects.
In addition to the cleanup, the group is working on the National Veterans Golden Age Games for Western New York, set for May 30 to June 4. About 3,000 volunteers are needed.
While those are 1WNY4U’s immediate projects, Hall said, the larger plan is to bring the organizations into schools. He said the goal is to have student ambassadors to help create a network of youth volunteers.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the cleanups or the Golden Age Games can contact the organization at 1WNY4U@gmail.com or by calling Hall at 864-7175 or Whitlow at 867-6589.