Clean-Up Program Set to Shine Streets

The winter of 2003 was one of the longest to hit Boston of late. This year's spring has featured some of the dreariest weather in recent memory. With the official start of summer approaching quickly, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is hoping that the Boston Shines citywide cleanup, to be held this Saturday, will help ease spruce up the streets for another summer in the city.

The event marks the most ambitious cleaning project in Boston's recent history. Announced in mid-May, "Boston Shines 2003" will span all areas of the city and will draw upon the help of what Menino hopes to be 5,000 volunteers. The project, scheduled to run from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., will not only work to remove trash and debris from the city streets, but to restore charm to a city worn down by the harsh winter.

"With Boston Shines, we're trying to do more than clean up the city," says Molly Dunford, Dorchester coordinator in the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services. "We're trying to beautify it."

City officials hope that Dorchester, as the largest neighborhood in Boston, will lead the way with volunteer turnout. "We definitely need larger numbers," Dunford says. "With a neighborhood this big, there is a lot of work to do."

The city has posted fliers and sent knockers door-to-door, and Dunford says that the community response in Dorchester has been a good one thus far. She reports that a mixture of individual citizens and private organizations have pledged their support in the days leading up to the event. "Private groups and businesses have come out a lot," she says, "and crime watches and other public residents groups. It's been a good mix."

The response has been especially good among the Vietnamese community, according to Dunford. While most groups have committed 10-15 people, Dunford says that Dorchester's Vietnamese community, the largest in the city, has pledged between 300 and 500 volunteers.

Although the numbers are already adding up, Dunford expects that they will continue to rise as the event draws closer. "I think it's going to be one of those things where, in the last three days, people are going to realize 'Hey, this is this weekend. We better sign up,'" she says.

Volunteers will not be alone in their efforts. City workers will join the Dorchester volunteer's right from the start. With the event scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m., the city's transportation department will make Dorchester its first stop, repainting crosswalks and replacing street signs throughout the morning in an attempt to revamp the neighborhood. "The transportation department will be doing that all over the city," says Dunford, "but it'll be good to have them here taking care of that here first."

Boston Shines is the first cleanup of its kind in the city. Although, some communities and organizations - Dorchester's Vietnamese community among them - host annual neighborhood cleanups, this is the first citywide program of this nature. It comes after a harsh winter that damaged the city in a number of ways.

The winter weather left its mark of debris and sand over Boston, but the winter's severe budget cuts have hurt the city just as much. The cuts - expected to reach $100 million in state aid - have rendered the city unable to hire the usual 40 extra workers brought in to head the spring cleanup. Additionally, the city has been unable to employ the 150 teenagers customarily brought in to clean as part of the summer job program.

Dunford points out that this doesn't mean Dorchester teens won't be involved, though. She reports that, among the neighborhood's most active participants, Little Leagues, Boy Scout troups and Pop Warner football programs, among other youth groups, have offered their teenagers to participate in the Boston Shines cleanup.

"This is different than a regular cleanup," Dunford says. "In a normal cleanup, it would be mostly adults, but here different youth organizations are donating their teenagers. I think it's great to get kids involved in something like this."

Mila Monteiro, director of the CityLinks office on Bowdoin St., did not return repeated phone calls.