New group York XL seeks to spur action in York
Sal Galdamez wanted York to excel, so like thousands of other Yorkers, he became a member of the Facebook group Fixing York PA.
Last year he posted photos of some of the city’s dilapidated buildings, hoping to get members to respond. And they did — with more than 100 comments, many of them negative.
Looking to spur action instead of commentary, he called on people to join him at i-ron-ic coffee shop on West Philadelphia Street to discuss ways to tackle the neglected structures and other issues plaguing the city.
The eight people that showed up that night in November ultimately formed a nonprofit known as York XL. Though it does not currently hold 501(c)3 status, the nonprofit operates under the York-based trust Philanthropic Endeavors Foundation.
For Galdamez and fellow members of York XL, it is important that residents get actively involved and that the group provides tools to succeed without relying on a “top-down approach” from city government.
“It’s about engagement,” Galdamez said. “It’s not about trying to fix people or fix anything. It’s really about engaging people and really for them to figure out what they want fixed.”
To kick off its mission, the nonprofit is teaming up with Downtown Inc and Lincoln Charter School in York, to host what it is calling a Clean & Green Challenge during the 10th annual Go Green in the City celebration on Saturday, April 21. The challenge will pit teams of 10 people against each other to see which group can photograph, tag and pick up the most trash throughout York County.
“Events like the Clean & Green Challenge empower residents to take beautification efforts into their own hands and make York a more attractive place for residents, businesses and visitors,” said Silas Chamberlin, CEO of Downtown Inc, which organizes the annual Go Green in the City festival, a street fair with more than 50 vendors.
Downtown Inc also employs a part-time cleanup crew. On average, the crew collects 14 tons of litter each year from all over the city, Chamberlin said, adding that he hopes to see that number fall.
Mapping a concern
Through the Clean & Green Challenge, members of York XL want to help residents and business owners identify the effects of trash on the streets while rallying York County residents to reduce the amount of litter around them using a free app called Litterati. The app allows users anywhere to photograph and geotag the location of litter.
“We hope to capture meaningful data to pinpoint areas most affected by litter and create data-based strategies to change people’s behavior,” Galdamez said, adding that even being able to identify the most-discarded pieces of trash can help a community find ways to reduce it.
Data collected by Litterati throughout the U.S. has already identified the most commonly tagged items as plastic, followed by cigarettes.
It’s Galdamez’s hope that the Clean & Green Challenge will create a domino effect starting with healthier and happier people and thus establishing a better environment for business starters and customers.
“Increasing business customers is not the immediate goal, [but] it can be a downstream effect,” he said. “Healthier communities will attract even more business opportunities, which in turn drive more traffic to existing businesses.”
Students from the Lincoln Charter School will participate in the Clean & Green Challenge in conjunction with their involvement in Go Green in the City activities, said Anne Clark, director of Community Outreach for the school.
“It’s a great next step to activities our students already do on a regular basis, like cleaning up daily the neighborhood around our school, and a good fit for other green activities,” she said.
Students from York College also have indicated their interest in participating, as the activity mirrors an effort currently pursued by fraternities and sororities called Adopt-a-Block, said Danielle Baruffi, a York College senior, an intern at Downtown Inc and vice president of programming for Panhellenic Council, an umbrella organization for Greek life at York College. With the college’s backing, organizations gather to clean up streets around the college.
As a believer of the need for grassroots, community-driven initiatives, Dominic Dellicarpini, dean of York College’s Center for Community Engagement, said he envisions increasing levels of support for such efforts from student volunteers.
“Clean & Green creates community pride, and at the same time demonstrates the skills of citizenship,” he said.
One other kernel of inspiration for York XL involved a call for fresh produce from Covenant House, the city’s crisis center for homeless and runaway youth. The call was posted on the Fixing York PA Facebook page.
Members of York XL considered how they could permanently solve Covenant House’s problem.
In order to do that, York XL figured it needed catalysts or “cats” — 17 to be exact — one from each ward in the city. Each cat, or representative, would be responsible for helping to seek out and solve the problems that plague his or her part of the city.
The first cat, who plans to help fulfill Covenant House’s needs, is Elsbeth Bupp — a York XL member who is also involved in neighborhood associations Oldetowne East and Downtowne East. Covenant House, at 307 East King St., is in Ward 1.
Bupp said she hopes others in the city and county also step up.
“It would be wonderful to inspire everyone to take better care of their neighborhood,” she said.
Though York XL’s focus in the coming months is mostly on the city, Galdamez said it’s because York City is the heart of the county.
“And if we’re the heart of the county, and the heart is not healthy, then the entire body is not healthy,” he said. “We’re working to get this heart healthy.”
Anyone interested in sponsoring the Clean & Green Challenge may contact York XL at firstname.lastname@example.org.