Van Nuys Clean Up Volunteers

Have you ever complained about trash build up on the streets in your neighborhood? Penny Meyer, former Van Nuys Neighborhood Council Board Member, saw just that sort of problem in her community and did something about it. And you can too! Read on to find out what her secret sauce is!

As a long-time member of her local Community Police Advisory Board (CPAB), she reached out to her LAPD Senior Lead Officer (SLO) for help. She gives LAPD SLO Mike Perez all the credit and not surprisingly, he gives her all the credit!

Officer Perez and teen volunteer

Penny started by identifying several other concerned CPAB members and together with their SLO they recruited members of the Teen CPAB. Sometimes teens need community services hours for their college applications and these clean ups are just the ticket and oftentimes connecting teens to the positive role model of officers in their community can be life changing.

Their group of 10-20 people meets once a month on Saturday mornings for about 2.5 hours to clean the area around their local elementary school and community center. “Students and their families have a great time coming out and working together to clean their neighborhood. It creates a sense of community, fosters neighborhood pride and is fun!” said Penny.

To further build community and thank participants, the group holds a BBQ twice a year where they can celebrate all their hard work. Penny has coordinated the effort to reward each participant with a certificate from the local City Councilmember’s Office and the recipients are excited to have their pictures taken with the certificate and their SLO, who in turn is thrilled to be building positive relationships with youth and families in his community.

An effort like this also needs equipment: an interested CPAB member has donated a weed whacker, leaf blower and rakes, a local janitorial supply, McCalla Janitorial Supply has been a wonderful supporter of this effort, providing the trash bags. Another source of equipment for groups starting out is the local City Councilmember. Water is provided to participants at each clean up.

Because the group is cleaning up in front of local businesses and near a park, they have worked out agreements to put full trash bags in the dumpsters of those businesses and organizations benefitting from their work.

Officer Perez elaborates on the logistics of preparing for a Saturday clean up, noting that the day before he scouts the area and comes up with a plan for which streets to clean and in what order. He is on hand each time to ensure the smooth operation of the clean up and provide safety. He also has an LAPD truck that he uses should anything need to be taken to the dump. Officer Perez shares a tip, “SLOs have in their job description to be at a certain number of community events per month as part of their responsibility to the community. Your clean up can be one of those events.”

Van Nuys Clean Up Volunteers

For outreach, participants are notified of upcoming clean ups through the SLO newsletter and word of mouth.

“Community improvement is really driven by this kind of hands-on involvement and organization by community members partnering with businesses and government to get things done. We love that Penny has been organizing this in her area and invite you to build a team in your neighborhood!” says Mike Browning, Van Nuys Neighborhood Council President. Find your Senior Lead Officer and their contact info: https://lapdonlinestrgeacc.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/lapdonlinemedia/2022/02/vnys-slo-map-aug-2021.pdf and let us know about your interest. Please contact Mike.Browning@vnnc.org.

Other resources:

  • A community-based nonprofit: Volunteers Cleaning Communities (VCC). This organization works to organize cleaning events to help clean our local streets of litter. To volunteer and schedule a clean-up in your area Contact: Jill Mather jill@vcc.world
  • For VNNC clean-up support, contact the Beautification Committee chair, Myrra Bolla, 818-744-4220 myrra.bolla@vnnc.org

This effort is really a function of who you know and what relationships you can build to accomplish your goals. Getting started to organize a regular crew takes time and determination, but it results in more than just clean streets, it creates community and a richer life for everyone in it.

Clean Up Team Checklist

Start by building relationship with:

  • Senior Lead Officer
  • City Councilmember Liaison

Recruit participants from:

  • CPAB
  • Teen CPAB
  • Neighbors
  • Neighborhood Council

Publicize event through:

  • SLO Newsletter
  • Neighborhood Council
  • City Councilmember’s email campaigns & social media

Equipment:

  • Borrow from City Councilmember
  •  Seek interested donors
  • Seek agreements with local businesses and organizations to put trash bags in their dumpsters

Celebrate Accomplishments:

  • Regular BBQ or other celebration (seek donor for food)
  • Certificates for participants to be handed out when they can take a picture with the SLO
  • Thank you notes to those involved and their bosses