LORAIN — Ahead of next weekend’s Lorain Better Block, close to 70 volunteers flocked to Veterans Memorial Park in the first Quick Pick of the season.
Started in 2017 by Max Schaefer and Lorain Proud, Quick Picks are one-hour flash-mob-style community cleanups throughout the city. Saturday morning’s kicked off the season, with volunteers picking up trash and mowing lawns along Washington Avenue.
“This is probably our largest gathering of people that we’ve had,” Schaefer said. “This is our third year doing Quick Picks, so this is an awesome start to the season.”
Similar to last weekend’s Black River Clean Up, princesses from this year’s International Festival were on hand, collecting cigarette butts and plastic bags from the bushes in the central park.
Helping draw some attention was a firetruck alongside the park, as a group of firefighters helped pull weeds and rake mulch around the Veterans Memorial, ahead of the city’s services for Memorial Day toward the end of the month.
“Usually when it’s in our part of town, we’ll go out and assist,” he said. “And this time it’s even perfect because our memorial’s here so we can help out, clean up our memorial but still help out in the process.”
Other volunteers, like Asia Taylor, heard about the event through a friend and decided to stop by. She spent the better part of the hour in the park’s fountain, scooping leaves and other debris into a trash bag.
“Honestly, there’s a lot more people here than I thought there was going to be, so that was kind of surprising. I think it’s good for the community of Lorain. I just recently moved to Sheffield and honestly I was talking to my fianc￩ on the way here and he was like ‘why are you going there?’ Because I’m still from Lorain, I still love Lorain so why not go help it.”
She said she plans to come back to other cleanups, in the hope people will be drawn to the city she knows and loves.
Brandon Wysocki, of Lorain, was helping Taylor pick up leaves in the fountain. Also his first Quick Pick, he said he was disappointed to see so much garbage in the fountain. He fished out pop bottles and a soggy T-shirt before the cleanup was over.
“There’s a lot of nice things in the city, so when you see positive movements like the Black River Clean Up or Quick Picks, it’s really hard to not try to jump on board,” he said.
Schaefer said it made sense to hold a Quick Pick ahead of this year’s Lorain Better Block event.
“We knew we were going to do our first Quick Pick right around this time and so when I started talking to Bart Gonzalez about it, we decided this location would be best in terms of preparation, cleaning and making sure that the park looks nice, as well as the surrounding neighborhood.”
Gonzalez, one of Lorain Better Block’s organizers, said the Quick Pick and Better Block go hand-in-hand.
“The Quick Pick team is awesome and knowing what we’re doing he just figured, ‘You know what, it would be a great way to start Quick Picks,” Gonzalez said. “Just to help make sure that we’re not just having Lorain Better Block, but the whole purpose behind it: Serving, Lorain Proud. If I’m not proud of my city, why would I expect anybody else to be proud, and so coming here and just seeing so many people join, just for an hour — it’s getting bigger and bigger.”
This year’s Better Block is moving off Broadway and into the residential neighborhood along Washington Avenue between West Erie Avenue and West Eighth Street. It will be noon to 6 p.m. Saturday.
This year’s event includes eight food trucks near First Lutheran Church, 66 other vendors, a laser tag bounce house, bike share program and other giveaways.
Gonzalez said the Lorain County Community Action Agency will debut its bike share program ahead of the program’s grand opening June 11. The bike share program, titled Go Lorain, will be housed at 101 W. 10th St.
Better Block is free and open to the public. Traffic will not be stopped on Washington Avenue, and the event will act as a trial run for a new type of bike lane marking in the state. Already painted on, there is a parking lane, a bike lane, a median for cars and then another bike lane on the far side of the street.
“It’s the narrative that’s starting to change,” Gonzalez said. “And if we can change the narrative, we can change the conversation, we can empower more positive instead of negative, we will see more people taking the initiative because they feel like (the city’s) theirs, they don’t have to ask permission anymore.”