Springfield resident leads southside cleanup project

Some of the progress made by Springfield's Jalen Wood at a small park at the corner of Sunset Ave. and Delta Rd. during a cleaning project Aug. 8-9. Submitted
Caption
Some of the progress made by Springfield's Jalen Wood at a small park at the corner of Sunset Ave. and Delta Rd. during a cleaning project Aug. 8-9. Submitted

Credit: Submitted

Credit: Submitted

By Brett Turner

It was following a visit to his mother on Springfield’s south side that Jalen Wood noticed something he didn’t care for. The area around the Sunset Hills Apartments and a small park near it on the corner of Sunset Avenue and Delta Road looked rough with weeds sprouting and trash strewn about.

Rather than shaking his head at the sight, Wood formulated a plan and within a weekend began the first phase of improving the area’s appearance although he doesn’t live there or know anyone who does.

“I saw it needed to be cleaned and I had the weekend off,” he said.

Although he works up to six or seven days a week, Wood spent 10 hours Aug. 8-9 improving the community. Armed with just a rake, he raked, weeded and picked up debris around the park on his own that first day.

He put out a Facebook post afterward to share his progress and the message, “I’ll be 30 in a couple years. It is our time to lead by example for our youth. Our parents are in their 50s/60s and grandparents are in their 70s/80s. We shouldn’t depend on them to be leaders.”

ExploreSnyder Park gardens open to visitors as construction continues

The post drew nearly 600 likes and loves from Facebook users and piqued others’ interest. A school friend, Jennifer Dibert and friend William Evans and his brother joined in the following day.

They tackled the apartment complex and nearby woods, doing general cleaning, noticing people who didn’t live there toss trash in the complex, which he wasn’t happy about, but did something about.

It was the appreciation of the complex’s residents that was rewarding. Evans also shared his enthusiasm about the project on his Facebook page and continues working with others to clean other areas of the city according to a post on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

This was just the beginning for Wood.

ExploreSpringfield nonprofit celebrates anniversary with work on new ‘relaxation spaces'

“I’d like to renovate and help build a park there, add playground equipment, an exercise area to help the kids be healthy and maybe some flowers. I’d really like kids to help,” he said.

A U.S. Army veteran, Wood enjoys volunteering in the community, also working with Shoes 4 the Shoeless and the Springfield Soup Kitchen. His main motivation is to help the city’s youth.

He’s not sure when the next phase of the park project will begin, but welcomes others to get involved.

“There’s a lot of poverty in Springfield. My main goal is to make kids’ lives easier,” Wood said. “I want to inspire them in the right direction.”

Anyone interested in helping Wood with the park project can contact him at his Facebook page or at juice82nd@gmail.com.