Richmond volunteers who cleaned up 632 pounds of litter, planted six community gardens and painted 6,860 square feet of blighted walls got a pat on the back from city officials Monday evening at City Hall.
The 2018 Love Your Block Awards Celebration honored the more than 500 city residents who have participated since 2016 in the grant-funded program that helps residents reimagine their neighborhoods.
A mural project on the side of North Richmond's Rancho Market unveiled in May and a cleanup at the city's Parchester Village this year were standouts in the celebration.
"You helped beautify an obscure and dangerous entrance to Parchester Village," Rochelle Monk, Richmond's community services director, told volunteers gathered for the event at City Hall Council Chambers Thursday evening.
The volunteers collected 41 bags of trash and painted hundreds of square feet of wall formerly filled with graffiti. The group, which includes many teenagers, continues to clean up the trash every week.
The program has existed in Richmond for three years, starting with a year of planning.
Residents and organizations got up to $1,000 each in Love Your Block mini-grants for projects including community gardens and neighborhood cleanups. The city's Community Services Department, residents and businesses all contributed to the effort. Stephanie Ny and Erika Ito were project managers.
"Richmond Love Your Block is a national program, and they use our city as a model for other cities," City Manager Bill Lindsay told the audience.
The city has been described as a leader in impact volunteering in California and one of the strongest partners of Cities of Service, the organization behind Love Your Block. Other cities awarded grants include Boston, Las Vegas and Seattle.
"There are two types of people, complainers and doers. You are the doers. You rolled up your sleeves and made Richmond a better city, one block at a time," Mayor Tom Butt said.
The city is battling a longstanding reputation for blight and crime. In 2007, Richmond was America's most dangerous city, with 47 killings among its 106,000 residents.
However, in 2013, the homicide rate plummeted to 15 per 100,000, and crime rates have continued to be relatively low.
Thriving businesses, including the Catahoula Coffee Company, have moved into Richmond; the 45,000-square-foot Craneway Pavilion event space draws major events and the downtown corridor now boasts new sidewalks, crosswalks, lighting and trees.
Love Your Block is another piece of the city's renaissance, the mayor said.
"The joke goes, 'How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,'" Butt said. "That's what you (volunteers) are doing, for yourselves and for your neighbors."