Make a Difference Day Did Just That; East SJ Volunteers Remove 708 Tags, Trash

How to Report Graffiti or Become an Anti-Graffiti Volunteer

Alberto Unzeta removes a stop sign tag.

How much of a difference can 158 volunteers armed with paint, littler sticks and trash bags make during two hours in a massive area in East San Jose? Plenty.

Representatives from Most Holy Trinity Church, Overfelt High School, Boys and Girls Club of East San Jose and Meadowfair, Dorsa and Tully Ocala King neighorhoods, broke into teams on Saturday, October 22, to patrol an area bound by King Road, Reid-Hillview Airport, Story Road and Tully Road.

The mission: Record and remove graffiti tags, pick up litter and trash and take note of neighborhood conditions. The event was part Cleanup and part Neighbor Walk, an activity organized around the concept that you learn more about your neighborhood’s assets and challenges by setting out on foot in groups.

The result: 708 graffiti tags were removed (5 percent believed to be gang tags); six mattresses, four sofas, TV stands, a dresser and 29 shopping carts were picked up; and 48 bags of litter and trash were filled. And that was just in about 50 percent of the target area, which was all the group could get to in two hours.

Paul Pereira hands out protective gloves.

The Make a Difference Day will become a monthly event across San Jose, said Paul Pereira, neighborhood team manager for the City of San Jose. Besides leaving the area cleaner and safer, 23 participants signed up to be anti-graffiti volunteers in their neighborhoods. Add to that the social aspect.

“They get to know one another and build up trust with one another,” Pereira said.

Margaret Librado paints over tagging on a fence.

The event started out at the new East San Jose Resource Center across from the church at Nassau Drive. Each team was equipped with a wagon full of anti-graffiti solvent, paint in several colors, rags, litter sticks and trash bags and bottled water. It wasn’t hard to spot graffiti. Taggers had hit light poles, traffic signs, sidewalks and fences on nearly every block.

“It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just once over,” instructed group leader Chris Willover, am AmeriCorps Vista volunteer working with the city. He was keeping the pace brisk.

Bea Diaz keeps track of tags.

Most Holy Trinity Church volunteers Bea Diaz, 14, Jessica Emperador, 18, and Margaret Librado, 14, formed a graffiti-fighting trio. Bea recorded the tags and locations while the others rubbed off graffiti with solvent and rags or painted over the tags on sidewalks and fences.

Twenty-year resident Eusbio Serna was familiar with the process.

Resident Eusbio Serna talks with volunteer Rachel Perez.

“I clean every day, but the next day there’s the same problem,” he said through volunteer Rachel Perez of Most Holy Trinity Church who translated his comments into English.

Many other residents came out of their homes to call out, “Gracias” and “Thank you” to the volunteers.

“I feel so good doing something for the neighborhoods,” said Perez, who filled bags of litter with volunteers Mario Gutierrez from the church and Antonia Martinez from Tully Ocala King Neighborhood Association.

Light poles are frequent tagging targets.

Willover’s group record 65 tags, but the count was higher, Bea said.

Volunteers fill one of the 48 bags of trash that were filled.

There wasn’t time to record every tag. That didn’t surprise volunteer Alberto Unzeta, 18, who used a ladder to help reach tags in high spots.

“Actually, this is normal in this neighborhoods,” said Unzeta, who grew up about 3 miles away from the cleanup area. “I grew up looking at graffiti.”

Recording tags and illegal dumping sites was an important part of the event, Pereira said.

“We can ask for City employees to follow up with services,” he said, “And train residents how to report problems.”

1 comment to Make a Difference Day Did Just That; East SJ Volunteers Remove 708 Tags, Trash

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