“Clean equals safe and safe equals development.”

These words were the mantra of Jefferson East’s then-board President, Donald Fitzsimmons of Royal Transporatation, when I was hired as Executive Director back in March of 2007. Mr. Fitzsimmons drove this message home at every Board meeting and, not surprisingly, over the years it has grown to inform a large part of our programming.

Back then, Jefferson East, Inc. was still the Jefferson East Business Association and we were exclusively focused on the Jefferson-Chalmers Business District. To remove litter, we relied on a cobbled-together combination of volunteer clean-ups, individual community service and even staff member hours (the staff hated me for mandating “bucket walks” in which we would walk Jefferson Avenue collecting refuse.)

Needless to say, I knew that if we wanted to make an impact with our Clean Jefferson initiatives, we would have to grow and professionalize our programming. So in 2010, with support from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, JEI was able to bring the Downtown Detroit Partnership’s Clean Downtown services to east Jefferson Avenue. Three times a week, a professional crew is now out removing litter along Jefferson from I-375 to the Villages. In addition, this service empties the trash cans along this busy stretch several times a week.

For the Marina District/Jefferson-Chalmers end of the corridor, we hire local contractors who employ neighborhood residents to help with litter management twice a week. We also mow vacant lots, maintain tree pits and work to remove sidewalk weeds along Jefferson.

Corridor-wide, we work to remove graffiti from vacant buildings and last year JEI bought the city of Detroit an additional 20 green pedestrian trash cans for East Jefferson Avenue. We also work to maintain and plant additional street trees along east Jefferson Avenue.

The results have been dramatic.

Since 2010 we have removed more than 136 tons of trash, secured the demolition of 10 vacant and blighted commercial buildings and planted 50 new street trees. And last year alone we removed graffiti from 120 structures and secured 13 vacant commercial buildings.

But this does not come cheap. In 2014 we invested more than $120,000 in our Clean Jefferson program. We prioritize this because we know that a clean environment deters crime and prevents further vandalism. Proof of this is measurable – each year we have to remove less trash because people are littering less!

Our work does not just take place on Jefferson. We work to support blight removal and clean-ups within the residential neighborhoods that line East Jefferson. Last year, we received some very generous support from JP Morgan Chase in support of this work. But we need your help to keep it going in 2015. Please consider making a donation via our new online portal. Or, if you’d like to discuss some larger sponsorship options, please give me a call at 313-331-7939 ext. 305. Go East!

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