PHOENIX – Not too many people would be excited to get up before sunrise on a Saturday morning but that is exactly what hundreds of people did in one Valley area, not only cleaning it up but also aiming to give those who live there a sense of pride in their neighborhood.
A predominantly Latino community located just north of 35th Avenue and Buckeye has seen its fair share of garbage, overgrown shrubs and dirt.
Those are some of the reasons this neglected and forgotten part of West Phoenix was chosen by Chicanos Por La Causa for their ninth-annual Barrios Bellos, an event steered toward transforming communities.
Weed wackers, rakes and trash bags were not the only tools helpers needed Saturday to help restore this “barrio.” More than 300 volunteers were also on hand providing the extra elbow grease and passion to get the Kuban Park neighborhood cleaned up.
The park has been serving this Latino community since it opened in 2010. Residents said it gave the people who live in the area a place to come together and enjoy the neighborhood they call home.
However, in the last few years, the area has gone through tough times and the wear and tear shows.
“You have your wealthy Latinos that are well off and you have the very poor Latinos and right here is one of those neighborhoods,” said Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski of District 7, who was there for the event.
However, many who live and work in the Kuban Park neighborhood see the beauty that lies underneath all that dirt.
Armando Chacon who works in an office nearby has become a regular at the Barrios Bellos cleanup event.
“Community support is a huge passion of mine, it is embedded within me. I do love to give back in any possible way,” Chacon said.
Chacon brought 50 other volunteers who are also deeply rooted in the community to help out with the effort.
“I think what really hit home is where we live in. A lot of our team members do live in this community, within the community,” he said. “So definitely a great opportunity when you do live in this community to give back.”
Max Gonzales, an executive at Chicanos Por La Causa, said when community members come together to help their own, it creates a domino effect.
“While we clean up the general areas, the allies, the streets, it encourages the people there to clean up their individual homes,” Gonzales said.
One of the big goals behind efforts like this one is promoting the idea of neighbors helping neighbors, no matter where they come from.
Chicanos Por La Causa also said they want community members to know anything can be accomplished through teamwork.
“We want to connect with everyone, whether you are Latino, Caucasian, African-American. It is a great time to have an opportunity to help out the people who live in this community,” Chacon said.