Group led by two women cleaning up around Everett
Eileen Rossignol (left) and Alicia Cappola stack collected cardboard boxes into a pile while Tony Rossignol picks up trash in the background along Oakes Avenue, below Everett High School’s Lincoln Field on Saturday, May 13. The three were participating in that morning’s clean up put on by a community group that cleans up trash weekly. Following the cleanup at Lincoln Field, the group traveled down Broadway to cleanup trash under the 41st Street overpass.
EVERETT — While many people spend their Saturday mornings relaxing or sleeping in, two women in north Everett are using that time to rake up hypodermic needles by the side of the road.
To better their community, Cate Harrington and Alicia Cappola formed the group Take Back Our Neighborhood - Everett.
“It needs to be cleaned up,” said Cappola. “Instead of pointing
fingers, let’s just clean it up.”
Last summer, Harrington began a Facebook page where people can point out problems that they are seeing in north Everett. As always, Harrington and Cappola are encouraging those who
want to see change to meet them at Clark Park and other locations on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. to help with a weekly community cleanup.
Harrington founded the group after a bad run-in at Clark Park, the neighborhood park in the Bayside Neighborhood where both Harrington and Cappola reside.
“Two summers ago I (saw) a lot of complaints over and over again…” Harrington said of the problems occurring at Clark Park. So, when another woman said that she was going to the park, Harrington offered to go with her, to see what the complaints were about.
“We went down there and walked around and it was really bad,” Harrington said. “People were openly shooting up — like with us walking a few feet away. They were smoking drugs that were not marijuana (and) openly drinking; there was a man brandishing a knife, a group of six men were in a fistfight. We called 911, and the police just drove by, so we started taking pictures.”
When the people Harrington spoke of started noticing her taking pictures in Clark Park, they grew angry and began threatening the women.
Undeterred, Harrington began to take action. She called up a man who she knew was a biker, and he called his friends, and soon they had a large group of bikers and moms ready to take on the problem at Clark Park under the namesake of a City Guard. During 2015, they cleaned up the park, and by doing so they drove away the people who were vandalizing it. This is how the movement began.
Harrington knows that the drug epidemic in Everett, and even the state, is a large problem to tackle. Cappola and Harrington are focusing
more on how to make the neighborhoods in north Everett cleaner and more approachable.
“I’m not talking about addiction, I’m not talking
about the people, I’m not making judgements. I’m talking about what they leave behind, but what me and my kids and you and your kids are going to be running into; that’s my concern,” Harrington said.
Recently, the crew expanded outside of their primary area to clean up property surrounding the Home Depot off of Airport Road and Highway 99. There, they found 245 needles on the outskirts of the property.
“There was so many needles it was like Easter eggs thrown on the ground for toddlers, you know? It was just crazy,” said Harrington on the cleanup that day.
Formally, the Police Department prefers that people do not pick up needles.
If people come upon a hypodermic needle they are welcome to “leave it there and let us know,” said Officer Aaron Snell, an Everett Police Department spokesman. People can call the police and they will dispatch an officer to come take care of it.
“When we cleaned up at Home Depot I went
inside and spoke with the manager and I showed him the tub with layers of needles in it … I think that at first he was a little defensive,” said Harrington. According to her, the manager said that his problem is finding someone to pick it up. Businesses often have a hard time with cleanup efforts, because they don’t want to require employees to be picking up
hypodermic needles as part of their job.
Harrington has countless other stories of situations that are unfortunately close to this one. Her and Cappola are working hard to clean up north Everett, and want all the help that they can get. Recently, the hospice nurses from Providence hospital donated large sharps containers to the group. They are
always in need of trash bags, sharps containers, rubber gloves and, most importantly, volunteers who would like to come help.
Cappola spoke of “the broken window theory,” embraced by law enforcement which says if a house has a bunch of windows and one gets broken by a rock, people will think that nobody cares about the building and they break
more if it is not fixed right away. The worse something looks, people feel more comfortable with damaging it. The same goes with public sidewalks, alleyways and parks. If people see a beautiful public park or a clean sidewalk, they are less likely to vandalize it or throw trash on the ground there.
While the scenario is not always true, it is something that Cappola is hoping this group will create: people taking pride in the neighborhood that they live in.
“You don’t have to come spend two hours cleaning up needles, but don’t walk by trash on the sidewalk. Pick it up and put it in the trashcan,” Cappola said.
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