Ready, Willing & Able tidies Washington Avenue

A Hawthorne organization is helping a South of South 
thoroughfare to combat abundant debris.

By Joseph Myers 

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 24, 2013

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Supervisor Wesley Brown, right, and his crew will complete their fifth week of ridding garbage from South of South blocks today. 

Photo by Greg Bezanis

Though any kind of garbage can prove unsightly, wet refuse makes an especially upsetting visual. 

Andrew Dalzell encountered the soaked sort Jan. 16 as he walked along Washington Avenue, but the programs coordinator for the South of South Neighborhood Association, 1901 Christian St., and other local figures have witnessed less litter making a layover on the prominent thoroughfare since last month courtesy of a transitional housing provider’s holiday gift to their neighborhood.

“More people have to realize what we see is not theirs or mine but our trash and up their efforts to tend to it more diligently,” Dalzell, of the 2000 block of Fitzwater Street, said within Cava International Marble and Granite, 2000 Washington Ave., before inspecting the heavily industrial expanse. “For the times when they don’t, we all experience a setback and need assistance.”

The civic personality has received such aid from Ready, Willing & Able, 1211 Bainbridge St., a 12-year-old organization that offers homeless men a temporary abode, social support services, education, paid work, vocational training and lifelong graduate services. Dubbed the “Men in Blue” because of their distinct uniforms, many of the 70 participants have spent each Wednesday since Dec. 19 cleaning Washington Avenue from Broad Street to its intersection with Grays Ferry Avenue at 26th Street and every Thursday since Dec. 20 sprucing up 22nd Street from Washington Avenue to South Street.

“We assisted at a SOSNA event in 2011, and Andrew wondered if he could have a residential block hire Ready, Willing & Able to perform services,” Mark Atwood, manager of communications and development and a resident of the 1100 block of Montrose Street, said from Cava, whose owner, Michael Mazzola, has joined Dalzell in trying to beautify the corridor for customers, fellow proprietors and pedestrians. “We started something around Christmastime then along Christian Street and South 22nd Street and hoped to be able to help more.”

His Hawthorne entity approved a pilot program one year later, giving Dalzell a free assist in promoting his civic’s clean and green initiative. The association’s personnel had devoted February and March to conducting a litter index, scoring 20 neighborhood subareas, including small and large blocks and sites with and without trash cans, on their sanitary qualities. With Washington Avenue’s tallies being the worst, Dalzell knew what must become the prime location to maximize the generosity.

“In many respects, Washington Avenue builds Philadelphia,” the South of South dweller said. “Because of wind currents’ bringing so much trash, though, we often have the Wild West on Washington West.”

To explain the burden troubling his territory, Dalzell called on Greek mythology, mentioning Sisyphus, a fallen king whose afterlife punishment involved the pushing of a boulder up a steep hill. Each time he would near the summit, the stone would roll back, and Dalzell used that tale as a metaphor for what residents face when fending off refuse.

“I couldn’t agree more,” Mazzola said, noting daily maintenance of his operation’s surroundings. “Just when we think we’re finished, more appears.”

A descendant of a New York City-based program, Ready, Willing & Able strives to promote self-sufficiency among its enrollees, about 70 percent of whom have served prison time and 96 percent of whom have a history of drug abuse, according to its website, with graduation depending on an individual’s attaining full-time employment, independent housing and a sober lifestyle. Alumnus Javier Rivera has ascended to the role of deputy director of community improvement projects and felt helping locations close to the organization’s headquarters would work wonders for enhancing appreciation of everyone’s duties in maintaining cleanliness.

“We work all over and tend to many tasks, including vacant lots for roughly nine months of the year,” he said. “We realized there is so much potential around here that reducing the trash situation became a must.”

His workers have addressed Marconi Plaza, Broad Street and Oregon Avenue, and Stephen Girard Park, 21st and Shunk streets, yet because of their citywide duties, they have not crafted a constant South Philly presence. The civic group’s chores, whose fifth segment in a probable eight-week cycle concludes today, could compel the community to call on Rivera’s crews more regularly, which Dalzell has deemed doable.

“We’re looking to acquire a contract for weekly services throughout the entire year,” he said, noting the acquisition of pledges from businesses along Washington Avenue could cover part of the cost.

Potential methods for furthering interactions with Ready, Willing & Able include the neighborhood’s willingness to assist with mock interviews and externships. Dalzell, whose efforts have brought BigBelly cans to South of South, knows no waste along the corridor would represent utopia but, rooted in reality, he realizes managing messes matters most. That philosophy has led him to add 22nd Street to the overseen areas for Ready, Willing & Able attendants, who use 22nd Street and Washington Avenue as their drop-off location for the City. 

Nowhere near as burdened as Washington Avenue at large, 22nd Street and Washington Avenue and the remaining five blocks comprising the second coverage area can prove popular for polluters, with burgeoning businesses, the recently renovated Julian Abele Park, 22nd and Carpenter streets, and the revamped Catharine Park, 22nd and Catharine streets, as primary spots for neglectful passers-by. The combined realm does not occupy the workers for as long as the first zone but brings no less pride to Wesley Brown.

“We love the routes,” the community improvement projects supervisor said after he and his five colleagues completed Jan. 16’s morning tasks. “Maintaining these areas, especially Washington Avenue, gives us senses of accomplishment, and we hope people notice that, but that certainly doesn’t mean we want for them to forget to be responsible and dispose of stuff improperly.”

The North Philadelphian graduated from Ready, Willing & Able in ’10 and secured employment with his benefactor last year. Having worked on numerous contracts already, he would welcome a chance to be a more consistent contributor to efforts to make streets more inviting for consumers and potential commerce heads. That attitude dovetails with South of South’s views, Dalzell, responsible for helping to stimulate community and economic development, said. 

“We want for people to consider Washington Avenue for their purchases, especially home improvement items,” he said. “Everyone needs to chip in, and we’re thrilled to have Ready, Willing & Able to bring that closer to fruition.” ■

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at or ext. 124. Comment at

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