EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Old Town Commercial Association, based in the Old Town district of Lansing, Michigan, hosted its second Old Town Cleanup event of the year on Oct. 7. The association typically hosts one cleanup in the fall and one in the spring. The purpose of the cleanup is to help residents make improvements around the community. The neighborhood’s physical appearance was their starting point.
OTCA’s mission is “to maintain a vibrant business community in Lansing’s historic Old Town district by providing services and opportunities that foster economic growth and community engagement.” The OTCA encouraged participants to register, but were happy for any help, including people who wanted to bring guests.
“It started with a collective group of artists who wanted to invest into the area,” said OCTA’s executive president Sam Benson.
OCTA partnered with the Main Street of America program for this year’s event. The two organizations work hand-in-hand to develop the community through different economic strategies, like funding businesses and investment plans. Throughout the three hours of community service, about eight people attended the event and covered 10 different blocks in the area. Most of the items collected were broken glass bottles, trash and leaves or tree branches. Many of the cleanup volunteers have been volunteering for the association for more than seven years.
“The community truly built the association, and we’re so lucky to have many of the original founders and members still in the district or actively working in the community,” Benson said.
Throughout the last few years, the amount of volunteers has increased. According to their 2023 edition brochure, OTCA documented over 2,000 volunteer hours over the past year and over 56,000 volunteer hours to date. However, getting people to volunteer for the association has been difficult recently. Like any other organization, the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for OTCA to operate and ask for help from the community.
“This is my first year doing it. Sam said she needed me, so here I am,” said Lisa, Benson’s mom. She understood what it meant to the community and Sam so she showed up with the other volunteers.
“Before Sam, my girlfriend was an executive president here for 15 years, so I’ve been helping out for a while now,” said Shawn Dyer. He has seen the neighborhood at some of its highest and lowest points during the pandemic. Dyer was happy to see the impact OTCA has had on the community.
The date for the spring clean-up is still to be determined, but OTCA plans on releasing information soon on their website, Iloveoldtown.org. Anyone is allowed to sign up for the event and bring others along with them, even if they don’t live in the Old Town neighborhood. Information for other events and volunteer opportunities can also be found on the website.