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A popular quote from anthropologist Margaret Mead is, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” It is my hope that this sentiment resonates with Riversiders as we all see the needs of our community. More than just hoping residents are inspired to rally and create positive change, we are creating opportunities for residents to engage and get involved in meaningful ways that better Riverside. Much of the inspiration for initiatives like Beautify Riverside and the Mayor’s Bipartisan Forum come from seeing Riversiders who have taken it upon themselves to roll up their sleeves and help.

Several years ago, I was in Tokyo, Japan and early one morning I was struck by the efforts of private citizens who just woke up, took to their streets or went to their parks and began sweeping, cleaning and collecting litter. Candidly, I was shocked as to why the Japanese did this. What I learned was a stark cultural difference. In Japan, these acts of caring for one’s neighborhood and city were the norm—what everyone does because it’s the right thing to do. In America, all too often, these tasks are seen as the “government’s job.” America, and Riverside, can learn something from the people of Japan. However, we do not need to look as far away as Japan, because there are residents here in Riverside who are working to make our city more welcoming, attractive, and clean. I would like to highlight some of their stories.

When we launched the Beautify Riverside initiative in July, my team started meeting with residents to identify ways for the community and the Office of the Mayor to partner on projects. This is when we began uncovering the great work that residents are doing—so let’s take notes!

Retired small business owner Elizabeth Hall brings a bag on her morning walks around Magnolia Center and collects litter and debris, walking different portions of the neighborhood each day. She takes her walks to get out and get exercise and cleans her neighborhood while she’s out there—it’s a win-win!

Longtime Riversider Gary Coffer keeps some graffiti removing wipes and cleaner at his home and when he sees small tags or graffiti in his neighborhood of Palm Heights, he will go and remove it to allow the City’s graffiti removal team to focus on the larger issues.

40-year-long small business owner Sue Mitchell has taken it upon herself to adopt Fairmount Park. Sue collects litter on her daily walks in the park, snaps a photo on her phone to report maintenance needs to the 311 app, and follows up with the Parks & Recreation department to ensure things are corrected. She shared that when something that she reported is fixed, there is a sense of pride and ownership that is exciting to her. Sue can take pride in knowing “I did that!”

After the launch of Beautify Riverside, Ward 5 residents and army veterans, Sophia Mendoza and Tracy Barlogio, wanted to help. Sophia was already collecting litter on her daily walks and convinced some friends to join in too, but she wanted to get more involved. So, she and her husband Tracy offered to be the welcome team at our monthly Beautify Riverside community cleanups bringing in a welcome tent, tables, cold waters, and more. We could not host these events without their support!

I share these stories to show how Riversiders are out in our community making small differences each day. Collecting litter on your daily walk or sending in a picture of graffiti to the 311 app may be small things we can each do but, as Margaret Mead said, these small things can amount to much more. My call to action is for each of us to exhibit the same care for our respective neighborhoods as the residents of Tokyo do or—closer to home—the Riversiders I shared about in this article. To Elizabeth, Gary, Sue, Sophia, and Tracy, thank you for being a group of thoughtful, committed citizens who are changing the world. Now, let’s all return the favor.

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