“I like to see nice things and simple things. I don’t want to wade through trash and filth,” said Allison Weiss, organizer of the Wayne Avenue Merchant Association.
Although the Wayne Avenue Merchant Association meets every first Friday of the month, involvement among business owners is far from sufficient. Weiss founded the association about four years ago after seeing a need for civic involvement in her neighborhood.
“We need more people and participation,” Weiss said as she filled a recycling bin with empty bottles. “We’re undertaking this on our own. We are self-energized and self-funded. It puts us at a bit of a disadvantage.”
The association’s goal is to provide clean, green and safe streets for Wayne Avenue. Like most months, Weiss hosted a Monday street cleanup between Berkley Street and Schoolhouse Lane with the help of her business partner Gene Scott, 75, co-owner of Progressive Auto Body Shop.
The association currently has 12 active members but has an average of three members who participate its neighborhood clean-up events.
Porsha Lewis, 64, is the owner of C. Riv’s Precious Children Inc. and has been a member of the association for two years.
“It’s not so much me helping them except for being supportive of it all because we don’t have many members,” Lewis said. “It’s hard because people don’t have time to come out or you’re torn between other meetings.”
The organization has taken positive steps to improve the overall look of Wayne Avenue. Weiss explained that the neighboring businesses started recycling and the city planted trees in front of the Happy Hallows Recreation Center, one of the oldest playgrounds in Philadelphia.
“We heard the water department might be doing a Green Streets project somewhere close. That would be wonderful,” Weiss said. “The city is also helping us periodically clean the municipal parking lot to keep it from being an illegal dump site.”
Bob Seorvetnick, 70, owner of Kane & Brown True Value Hardware and member of the merchant association, reflected on the condition of his neighborhood.
“It’s not how it was when I first started in 1987,” Seorvetnick said. “It was very active but now no one is active and the neighborhood is on a decline just like many others.”
Weiss acknowledged the major obstacle the association faces is a lack of commitment, but she continues to look for people who care about progress in the city.
“It doesn’t have to be here either,” Weiss said. “Just helping your own neighborhood can help us. We all need to work together because a lot of hands can do big tasks in a shorter amount of time and it can have positive results. I just encourage people to participate and share their ideas any way they can.”