This past week I posted on an excessive amount of litter strewn about the West Side and Allentown. Shortly after, I received an email from a BRO reader who asked that I connect with the founder of the Allentown Litter Mob, Max Stephan. Max and I met up this morning to chat about the litter scene, and his five-year stint running the Litter Mob.
Max also happens to be in charge of the Beautification Committee at the Allentown Association. This will be his last year heading up that position – the association is in the process of looking for a new committee chair, who will hopefully also continue to run the Litter Mob. Max says that he will continue to attend the monthly cleanups, partially because he likes the idea of keeping Allentown clean, and partially because he enjoys the monthly get-togethers that wrap up with a post-gathering at Fat Bob’s, where participants enjoy food and drink.
“It was five years ago when I walked into Fat Bob’s and talked to the owner, Patrick Ryan,” Max told me, over a cup of coffee at Grindhäus Café. “Patrick liked the idea, and offered to give us a good deal for anyone who was participating in the cleanups. For $5 a person gets a beer and food… and the great food keeps coming out. Some people take part in the cleanups just so that they can enjoy the deal, while others do it because they want to help clean up the neighborhood.”
I asked Max if he felt that the streets in Allentown have been excessively littler-laden this spring. He said that he had noticed more litter this year, and attributes the increase in debris to the number of people who are now frequenting Allentown at night. There has been a shift from Chippewa to Allentown over the last couple of years. Max said that there has also been a significant increase in police presence on the street, which is a telltale sign that there are more partiers.
Max imparted to me that some of the cleanups attract upwards of 30 volunteers, but he has also seen a couple of days where he was the only one to show up. “If the weather is nice, we get fewer people,” he explained. “Bad weather days bring out more people. The Allentown Association pays for all of the cleaning supplies, which also makes it more enticing for people to show up, not to mention the food and drink special at Fat Bob’s. We meet the third Thursday of the month, from 6pm to 7pm – you don’t need to be from the neighborhood to show up and help. We attract all sorts of people, plus Fat Bob’s benefits from the cleanups that run from spring to fall. People really appreciate what they do, and tend to stick around even after the special ends.”
I found it interesting that one of the spin-offs of the Allentown Litter Mob is a snow shoveling committee that tackles the major Allen Street intersections over the winter time. What a great idea! Instead of picking up litter, volunteers show up with shovels, to clear the crucial sidewalk intersections that typically get bogged down with snow and ice. Every commercial district should have a similar group that meets throughout the winter to clear the intersections, monthly, if not weekly. The upside is having a walkable neighborhood, while meeting other people who care about their neighborhood, not to mention the food and the beer after the shovels have been put away.
Max told me that at one point, early on, during the formation of the Litter Mob, he and Andrew Eisenhardt (a mainstay activist at the Allentown Association) began to purchase $20 worth of Scratch Off lottery tickets, which they would hide throughout Allentown in hopes of attracting more volunteers. Unfortunately a number of tickets were never recovered, so they decided to simply hand out the tickets at the post-gathering. Once again, there are a lot of benefits to being a part of this admirable group.
Whether you’re in it for the social aspects, the cleaning angle, the deal on the beer and the food, or for the Scratch Offs, there are plenty of reasons to attend the monthly gathering of the Allentown Litter Mob.
On the 3rd Thursday of every month, volunteers meet at Fat Bob’s Smokehouse in Allentown (summer @ 6:30pm, winter @ 5:30pm) where garbage bags, plastic gloves, and garbage picker-uppers are distributed. Streets are assigned to volunteers, where, for 1 hour, Allentown is magically cleaned up! As a thank-you, when volunteers bring their trash back to the Allentown Landscape truck, food and drinks at Fat Bob’s are made available for a mere $5.00. Tell your friends, spread the word, and be a humble activist and a caring neighbor in this amazing part of Buffalo – Allentown!