City Hall: Contest Connects, Cleans Communities]

For the residents of the 1600 block of Waverly Street, the city’s Clean Block Contest wasn’t just a chance to continue to spruce up the block. It was a chance to connect with all of the neighbors of their narrow side street in Center City.

“Here, you walk out and your neighbors are out, there are people,” said Ann Stinson, co-captain of the block. “Having them acknowledge you and know who you are after this project has been really nice.”

For others, like Tracy Williams, the co-captain of the 1500 block of South Woodstock Street, the contest offered an opportunity to show case the pride they take in the block.

“I’ve been here now three years and they welcomed me with open arms,” Williams said. “The block is just full of love.”

The Clean Block Contest, run through the Street Department’s Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee, is aimed at improving the quality of neighborhoods throughout the city by encouraging residents to promote a cleaner, healthier environment, according to its website.

Between Sept. 24 and Oct. 3, 24 blocks throughout the city were judged on their cleanliness and beautification efforts. The top four blocks will be announced during a ceremony on Nov. 9 at Penn’s Landing Caterers.

Though the blocks were gearing up and preparing for the contest during the past several months, many residents said that to prepare for the contest, they simply continued completing tasks that they have made habits through the years.

“Since I moved in, I just started cleaning the street and I basically do it every day,” said Dorothy Vadino, who has lived on the 2500 block of South Franklin Street in South Philadelphia for 22 years. “We pull the weeds from one end of the block to the other.”

Steve Tonkin, who has lived on the same block as Vadino for 15 years, said he is up every morning cleaning and sweeping the street.

“I just come out and pick up whatever trash is around,” Tonkin. “I try to make the block look like a decent, good [looking] block.”

Tonkin added that during snowstorms, his two sons join him in shoveling the sidewalks from Porter Street to Shunk Street.

Residents of other blocks said that sprucing up the block has made the area more popular to realtors.

“It seems like everybody wants to get into this block,” said Marie Coleman, block captain of the 1500 block of South Woodstock Street in Point Breeze. “Realtors are coming and asking me about people coming into this block and that’s a blessing to us. The people are like a family here. If somebody’s in trouble or somebody needs help, we just help each other.”

Len Smiley has lived on the 1600 block of Waverly Street for 15 years and said the block has improved immensely since he first moved in. It has only improved since the residents of the block started preparing for the contest.

“When we moved in, there was no sense of community,” said Smiley, who added that gradual changes over the years have made the block into what it is today.

Stinson, who has only been living on her block for four years, said the contest allowed her to meet almost every neighbor on the block.

“Not knowing my neighbors, this was a great experience to get everyone together,” said Stinson, who previously lived in Kennett Square. “That’s very important to me, that’s more of why I got into the contest, to have more of a community effort on the block.”

Stinson added that the community presence was a positive aspect of moving to the block from Kennett Square and the pride the residents have is what drives the block.

“In Chester County, I walked out and there was just acreage, just empty land,” she said. “Every one has a common goal and they enjoy the block the way it is.”

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