Vendola Lawrence believes a clean community is a safer one.
She removes litter and debris from her neighborhood on Dayton’s West Side, focusing on the areas of South Ardmore Avenue, Bish Avenue and Cowart Street.
“I’m out here every week,” said Lawrence, an amiable 64-year-old woman with a beatific smile, “The only week that I’m not out here scouring the community is because I’m out of town or I’m doing something myself.”
Helping in her efforts when needed is a friend, Timothy Jackson, 66. The two saw down overgrown tree branches in the alleys to prevent them from impairing motorists’ vision and becoming a blight to vacant property. They also place branches into piles, along with any tires they find, and trash at a potential dumping site is cleaned up and bagged.
Lawrence then coordinates with the city of Dayton for pick up. The two also also have sprayed weed killer and picked up litter.
“It’s a volunteer thing,” she said. “I do it out of pride because I love my community.”
Brenda Weaver, Lawrence’s neighbor, nominated her as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem for “tirelessly and unselfishly” committing her time to keep the neighborhood clean and safe.
“Vendola sincerely cares about her neighborhood and we residents of South Ardmore Avenue, Bish Avenue and Cowart Street appreciate her and Tim for their dedication,” Weaver said. “Because of their positive impact, we are doing our part in keeping our streets and alleys clean.”
Lawrence said she grew up in the area and moved away 30 years ago but returned in 2020 after her youngest brother suddenly died. She said the community three decades ago was not as “unkept” as it is today.
“I was so disappointed how we have a city that allows weeds to grow up in it and illegal dumping,” she said. “Yes, I complained to the city, but they was moving too slow, so I got out here and did somethin’ about it, picking it up myself.”
Lawrence said that since she initiated the cleanup, she believes her neighbors have noticed and try not to litter.
“I think it’s somebody that’s driving around in the community tossing out trash out of their car,” she said. “When the neighbors overflow their trashcans, then that’s when the wildlife, like possum and racoons, comes and pulls it out and scatters it all over the community.”
When Lawrence organizes groups to help her, the city provides the materials to hel, such as garbage bags and gloves, she said. When she does it on her own, the expenditure is hers alone.
“I use my own gloves, my own garbage bags and a little picker,” she said.
Lawrence said it’s important for her to continue to clean the neighborhood because she has pride in the community.
“I can sit and look at my own filthy home but I cannot stand to look at trash outside of my house,” she said. “It just turns me off.”
She said was “flabbergasted ... and flattered” to learn she was nominated as a Community Gem. “It means somebody is noticing me,” she said. “I’m not invisible after all.”
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