Chicago block club partners with local nonprofit for spring cleaning and beautification

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On 8000 South Euclid Ave. in the South Chicago neighborhood, the self-proclaimed "new kid of the block" moved in five years ago. Rodney Meeks only had to point across the street from his house to prove why he deserved the title.

"Everyone on that side has been here over, like, 50 years," Meeks said, pointing to the western side of his block.

Exactly where Meeks pointed, lifelong resident Loretta Northcutt oversaw grass being planted in her neighbor's yard. Northcutt's parents moved onto South Euclid in 1967, and they never left.

"This block has been a stable block, a unified block, but most of the residents are in their 80s," Northcutt said. "So there has been a little bit of neglect as far as the homes and the grounds go."

As the residents have aged, neighbors have stepped up and started an annual tradition of community beautification. This year, to bolster their efforts and build a community garden bed at a nearby church, the 8000 Euclid block club partnered with My Block My Hood My City.

"Our organization does everything we can to uplift the city, across the city, every community," said program manager Casey Merchant. "And we do that through working with youth, exposing them to opportunities, to new experiences. And we do that by supporting block clubs."

Pam Bilal, founder of the 8000 Euclid block club, believes that neighborhood organizations like hers can really bolster the quality of life all over the city.

"In a diverse city like Chicago with a lot of segregation, often times people like to stay in their own little pocket and just take care of themselves," said Pam Bilal, block club president. "And we want people to understand that it's not about the little man, it's about the community. And we want to have a vibrant, exciting, financially stable community. So that's why we start block clubs."

Chicago block clubs can sign up for clean-up assistance, club training sessions and more support on My Block My Hood My City's website. They're fully booked for beautification in spring 2019, but the next training session on July 13 will give block clubs a chance to connect with the organization. Trainings cover a wired variety of topics, from guidance for anyone starting or rebuilding a block club to networking and connections with public officials.

For Meeks, though, the importance of his block club and their annual beautification is simple.

"It's family," Meeks said. "Family and love."
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