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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, April 14, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsCommunity Groups Call for Volunteers to Assist in Savan Cleanup

Community Groups Call for Volunteers to Assist in Savan Cleanup

At a Wednesday evening press conference held at the Savan basketball courts, the organization Community Action NOW! and its partners issued a call for volunteers to participate in this month’s Savan Cleanup and Restore Project, an initiative that will run from Thursday to July 25.

In partnership with the Economic Development Authority, the Environmental Association of St. Thomas-St. John, the Virgin Islands Conservation Society, Sankofa Saturdays, and other local nonprofits, businesses and government offices, Community Action NOW! is asking St. Thomas residents to lend a helping hand in the revitalization of one of the island’s most historic neighborhoods.

A cleanup phase of the project will run from Monday through July 17. Volunteers are encouraged to gather at 7 a.m. at the Savan basketball court each day to assist in the trash-gathering effort. Volunteers will also be needed for trash pick-up from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

A restoration phase, during which repairs will be made to some of Savan’s historic buildings, will follow from July 20 through 24.

Iffat Walker, executive director of the Atlanta-based Community Action NOW!, said she was born and attended elementary school in Savan. Walker said many of her family members, including her father and brother, still live there, and that she plans to move back to the neighborhood one day.

"This has been a dream. I come here every year and it bothers me every year when I have to leave that I leave it in a condition I know it wasn’t in when I was born. I know it wasn’t this way when I went to school here," said Walker.

Jason Budsan, president of the Virgin Islands Conservation Society, said what brings him out is “the energy that Iffat brings to everybody."

"We want to polish this neighborhood," he said.

Budsan said the project has the potential to energize other communities on St. Thomas to begin similar neighborhood revitalization projects.

"If it can be done here, it can be done in Northside, it can be done in Tutu, it can be done in Frenchtown," he said.

Budsan said that one of the things that his organization will focus on introducing into Savan is composting, which he said will turn the 30 percent of the community’s solid waste that is organic into a usable resource.

Romeo Malone, a 93-year Savan resident who conference attendees playfully referred to as "the Mayor of Savan," said he felt like one of "the last of the Mohicans" in the fight to revitalize the neighborhood.

"Most of the old Savaneros moved away because they were disgusted with the situation. I still live in Savan. I’m not going to move because I want to see Savan cleaned up," he said.

"We had a ballpark right here, one of the best ballparks in St. Thomas," said Malone, pointing to the concrete beneath his feet.

"All the houses that the old community members were born and died in are crumbling," he added.

Walker said that the trash pickup is more than just about cleaning up litter; it’s also about making connections to sustain progress after the project ends.

"This is about what sort of relationships we build in the community during the cleanup," said Walker. "I want us to do it together. I never believed it should be one organization or one individual carrying all the weight. It doesn’t make sense. A community is a collective."

Savan residents who attended the conference agreed.

Lifelong resident Alvin Francis said, "Hopefully all the people in Savan, once we get it cleaned up, will keep it that way. That’s what I’d like to see. I will pitch in whatever I can, and my brother will do the same," he said, gesturing to his brother Louis.

Community Action NOW! Co-Chair Kevin Gilbertson said, "It’s a beautiful little community here, and it’s been neglected and allowed to fall apart. We’re going to get it back to the way it should be."

Nadine Marchena Kean of the Economic Development Authority’s Enterprise and Commercial Zone Commission said she will be leading a tour of the neighborhood on Thursday to call attention to its cultural and historic resources in need of restoration.

"Our intention is to work towards the revitalization of communities such as Savan," said Kean.

Also present at the conference were members of Sen. Myron Jackson’s staff.

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