On Tuesday night, Kathy Flann, a Baltimore-based fiction writer, found herself in Roosevelt Park in Hampden, asking a gaggle of tough-looking, 20-something Hampdenite guys chilling at a picnic table if she could please pick up the trash beneath their feet. She felt apprehensive. She wondered if her question might seem condescending. After all, she and her co-ick-picker-uppers were working as part of “Get Trashed,” a volunteer community meeting/rotating social club that invites Hampden Community Council Facebook members and any and all residents in-the-know to scan for and scoop up residential litter, and later hit a trendy bar together.
Flann was happily surprised when the fellow she first addressed offered, not only to let her tidy up without an ounce of mockery or hostility, but to pitch in literally alongside, crouching on his hands and knees. So did his friend.
“Then their kids — little toddlers — started putting trash in the bags,” Flann says. “We ended up talking about how the place had become such a mess… They didn’t like seeing that trash there, either. It was a pretty cool exchange.”
Interested in lending a hand in Hampden? Hey, you’re invited, wherever you reside in the city. Bring Latex gloves or borrow them on the spot. On the last Tuesday of each month in summer and spring, an assortment of 12-25 volunteers gathers to pick up useless stuff from appointed residential blocks, and later pick up a discounted cold drink at a designated local establishment. The event is one part eco-friendly neighborhood upkeep, one part community social engagement, a rare cocktail of real work and jovial play.
The always-shifting pack meets in front of the Royal Farms in Hampden at 7 p.m. on that finale Tuesday. From there, groups of two or three gloved volunteers travel together for one hour scanning the ground for trash-able and recyclable stuff. Then it’s off to the preordained party zone.
“It’s amazing how much gets done in that amount of time,” Flann says. “It’s like mowing the grass — there’s a visible change as a result of the effort. Not much else in my life works like that, so it’s nice.”
Event’s been rolling off and on for more than five years. Current “Get Trashed” coordinators are Bambi Chapin and Liz Carney — they also take cues from Jay Lazar, the Hampden Committee’s Clean and Green coordinator. (Clean and Green sponsors events all year.)
“The neighborhood has gotten cleaner in the time I’ve been doing it – there are studies that show if you have a clean neighborhood it gets cleaner…” notes Chapin.
So, whether you’re looking to make Hampden a prettier place, enjoy an inexpensive happy hour with future buds from the area, or both, Get Trashed might be the destination for you.
Also plenty of room for laughs, even before the drinks start flowing. Chapin says the gloved workers always compare discovered treasures and gross-out offerings upon regrouping.
“We have found underwear, flattened rats, a chunk of a hair-weave. It’s also a lot that’s recyclable,” she adds.
For her part, Flann is a little more expansive where the after-party’s concerned.
“When we did the post-pick-up happy hour at McCabe’s [on Tuesday], they put out an amazing spread for us — white bean hummus, homemade tortilla chips and salsa, chips, veggies. All free of charge,” Flann says. “And there were also discounted mojitos.”
Next chance to gather gunk (and toast local folks): Tuesday, August 28, 7 p.m. — Royal Farms on 36th Street. Last regular meeting this year happens in September. Then look online for a special post-Halloween, candy-wrapper-ridden pick-up — plus beer-mug-pick-up, of course. Cheers.
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