Make way for the clean-up guy
Dan Gordon tours his beloved Osborne Village daily with a trash picker, broom and pleasure of making the streets cleaner and friendlier
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/06/2022 (238 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For Dan Gordon, keeping his neighbourhood clean is all part of a day’s work. Unpaid work, that is.
The longtime Osborne Village resident equips himself daily with a trash picker, broom and dustpan and cleans up his neighbourhood.
“I really like spending my time doing something valuable in the community,” he says.
A former street patrol volunteer with the Bear Clan, Gordon was inspired during an Earth Day clean-up to tidy up his own backyard.
“I started thinking about my neighbourhood here in Osborne Village. We have so many people, it’s so densely populated and we have a bit of a garbage problem,” he says. “I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll start working on it here.’”
Gordon covers the residential areas of the Village including River Avenue from Donald Street to Wellington Crescent, Roslyn Avenue on either side of Osborne Street as well as both Assiniboine Avenue and Wardlaw Avenue. Essentially, the areas that — for the most part — don’t receive semi-regular cleaning from the City of Winnipeg or the Osborne Village BIZ.
He typically begins his clean-up efforts in February and continues until the first snowfall, usually sometime in November. On a typical day, weather permitting, Gordon will put in about an hour of work. When he’s got more free time, he’ll dedicate upwards of six hours a day.
“There was even a big marathon day when I did everywhere on my map in one day. That took me 10 hours.”
Gordon, who works independently, uses a map to document everywhere he’s cleaned so he can keep track of where he’s been and what areas still need to be done.
“The same way people like going on a bike ride and then sharing a picture of where they biked, I’m the same way (with my map). When I come home after an hour or two of cleaning, I go and draw it on my map,” Gordon says. “I’ll notice if there’s an area I haven’t gotten to and then I’ll really want to get there to finish it up. It drives me to continue,” he says.
Gordon values the sense of accomplishment he gets and knowing he’s making a difference.
“Once you’re finished (cleaning) to the end of a block, you can look back and see that the area is now tidy and you can feel really good about that,” he says. “Also, I’m getting exercise and enjoying the fresh air and sun. I just want to go out and enjoy that.”
Research shows that volunteering can reduce stress, keep you mentally stimulated and provide a sense of purpose. One of the more well-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community — volunteering allows you to connect with others.
“One thing that I find wonderful is that I’m getting to meet people that live in my neighbourhood that I never would have met otherwise,” Gordon says. “Building managers, the hot dog guy in the street. I’ve met a whole bunch of people through this and it makes it feel like more of a community.”
Gordon has become a fixture in Osborne Village. He can’t go out without being recognized as “the clean-up guy.”
“Most of the time nowadays, I can’t go on a two-hour walk without somebody stopping me and saying, ‘I just want you to know that I really appreciate that. I’ve seen you wandering around cleaning up and it’s wonderful. Thank you.’ The people really do appreciate it.”
Those of us living in concrete jungles have perhaps never appreciated green space and cleaner streets more than over the last two years. During lockdowns, city dwellers have found peace and joy in parks and gardens. The past few years have seen an explosion of research linking increased exposure to nature with improved physical and mental health.
“I really feel that this project has helped my mental health because I had something to accomplish and something that I could do by myself outdoors,” Gordon says. “And I know that because everybody else is hurting, the better I can make the neighbourhood for them, the better it will be for their mental health, too.”
Gloves, garbage bags, brooms — Gordon purchases the cleaning supplies himself and says some people have even been kind enough to provide him with a small donation. He’s now shifted to reusable shopping bags and can fill between eight and 10 with debris in a one-hour shift.
Down the road, he’s hoping to spearhead a regular community clean-up where people meet weekly and dedicate a couple hours to cleaning up the neighbourhood.
“We would love to help support Dan in leading a regular community clean-up,” says Lindsay Somers, executive director of the Osborne Village BIZ. “We want to have a busy, beautiful summer in the Village and, with that, comes a lot more people, which brings a lot more litter. It takes a village and we’re really excited about the future and working more closely with people like Dan.”
Osborne Village is a busy community with 11,000 residents, says Somers. The Osborne Village BIZ has one full-time employee and one summer student. Somers says anything the community can do to lend a hand is appreciated and that working together to build a better neighbourhood is important.
“We’re looking to really get involved with the community. Having people like Dan support our efforts means so much; he’s helping build a new Osborne Village,” she says. “Every piece helps change the perception and moves the needle toward having a beautiful, clean neighbourhood that we can be proud of. Pride in a neighbourhood is No. 1.”
In his spare time, Gordon, a record collector, enjoys visiting Old Gold Vintage Vinyl, a used record shop inside Urban Waves on Osborne Street.
“It’s one of my favourite places to visit in the Village,” he says.
Gordon walks the walk — he’s an Osborne Village lifer and has resided there for nearly 25 years.
“I love the neighbourhood and how close it is to downtown, but yet it’s still sort of a set apart at the same time,” he says. “It’s a vibrant place to live. You have all these shops and restaurants and you also have parks, churches and schools.”
So, what keeps him inspired to continue beautifying his community?
“It’s an hour of your time but it means so much to the people in the neighbourhood that someone’s looking after them,” he says. “Lowered trash may mean people feeling safer, it might mean lower crime, it might even mean better property values. By doing what I do, I hope I can make people’s day just a tiny fraction better.”
Sabrina Carnevale is a freelance writer and communications specialist, and former reporter and broadcaster who is a health enthusiast. She writes a twice-monthly column focusing on wellness and fitness.
Updated on Monday, June 6, 2022 11:12 AM CDT: Fixes headline