Champaign holds community service day

Champaign holds community service day

CHAMPAIGN — A number of Champaign neighborhoods will get a sprucing up on Saturday, courtesy of city officials and about 200 volunteers.

The city plans to sponsor a community service day Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon as part of its STAR program — an acronym for Service Together Achieves Results. Garbage pickups, house painting, landscaping and park rehabilitation are all among the projects planned for the morning.

Much of the activity will be in the Garden Hills and the Garwood and Beardsley Park neighborhoods, where city officials have been focusing a lot of their efforts lately.

"Within those two targeted areas, we really want to increase the level of engagement" from city departments, said neighborhood coordinator John Ruffin.

Volunteers will weed and mulch the gardens in the front and rear of Garden Hills Elementary, clean up along Champaign Street and help two homeowners with landscaping. They're planning similar "blitzes" in places like Hedge Road and generally throughout the neighborhoods.

Property maintenance and other issues have been a problem in those neighborhoods for years. The projects on Saturday will be small, but officials think they could go a long way in making a difference.

The Garwood neighborhood, for example, is right across Market Street from the Bristol Place subdivision, where the city is in the process of buying up all the homes. They say Bristol Place has gotten so bad that there's no other solution but to level the entire neighborhood and start with a fresh development.

They are trying to address other areas before they go the same way as Bristol Place. City officials have a plan in place as they try to revitalize the neighborhoods in the immediate area.

"As we improve the Bristol Place neighborhood, we want to also be focused on improving those places adjacent to the neighborhood," Ruffin said.

Beyond those "targeted neighborhoods," city officials have projects planned in other areas of the city, too.

"There were other projects we selected that we thought were just good projects," Ruffin said.

Volunteers plan to rehabilitate Mable Thomas Park in the Dobbins Downs neighborhood. And city officials will address a Mittendorf Drive house that came to their attention on Facebook "that's painted all these different wild colors," Ruffin said.

Neighbors told city officials that they thought the house was hurting their property values, but they did not have the resources to do anything about it.

"We thought about this project, and we got the volunteers and we've got the resources," Ruffin said.

City officials partnered with the University of Illinois Office of Volunteer Programs, the Champaign-Urbana Interfaith Alliance and Lincoln's Challenge Academy to enlist help. It's the first time they have undertaken a community service day as part of their STAR program, which has been recognizing community leaders for years.

There's still room to help. Ruffin said that anyone interested in signing up can contact the city's neighborhood services department at 217-403-7070. A registration form is also available on the city's website at bit.ly/STARday.

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