Valley community comes together on MLK day to clean neighborhood

At the MLK day of service, neighborhood clean up, volunteers gather around the streets of 7th Avenue and Pima in Phoenix to hand out free work gloves to facilitate the neighborhood clean up. At the MLK Community Clean up, volunteers gather in south Phoenix to hand out free work gloves to facilitate the neighborhood clean up on Jan. 20. The day of service aims to bring the community closer together while simultaneously improving their neighborhood. (Photo by Mario Mendez)

To honor Martin Luther King, Jr., people from all over the Valley came together on Monday to clean up a neighborhood in south Phoenix and strengthen the community through their charitable service.

PHX United, an organization committed to improving neighborhoods in the Valley, partnered with Radio Campesina and dozens of other organizations to host the second annual MLK Community Clean up.

Devin Del Palacio, PHX United's president and CEO, grew up a few blocks from Buckeye Road and 7th Avenue, the area being helped, and started the event two years ago with his aunt and two cousins.

“I gathered a few folks for my first clean up, and it was just family,” Del Palacio said. “Now, here we are two years later, and we have 150 folks out here trying to inspire this neighborhood, to take it back and really hold that pride.”

Del Palacio said this was great way to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. by doing the work that he did.

Arizona gubernatorial candidate Fred DuVal gave a speech to everyone involved before throwing on a pair of gloves and joining them to pick up trash and rubble throughout the streets.

“It’s all about empowering people to take responsibility for their communities, their neighborhoods, their cities and, ultimately, their state,” DuVal said.

Duval said he wanted to nurture that instinct and compared its growth to a muscle in the body.

“Muscles get stronger with use, so does activism,” he said.

Phoenix city councilman Mike Nowakowski and former city council candidate Lawrence Robinson were also in attendance getting their hands dirty with the community.

Many organizations in the Valley showed their support by contributing food, drink and labor. Throughout the day, there was plenty of laughter and smiles as these groups bonded over their shared contributions.

Victor Gamiz, the director of community outreach for Radio Campesina, worked with Del Palacio to organize all groups that wanted to partner with the event.

“We tried to connect (the organizations) with different people, so they’re all mingled amongst each other,” Gamiz said.

The Arizona Roller Derby league had many players scattered throughout different parts of the neighborhood.

Heather Nelson, or Dewey Decks’emall in the Arizona Roller Derby league, brought her family to help contribute to the cause.

“We’re trying to do a lot more community outreach and give back,” Nelson said.

Reach the reporter at or follow him on Twitter @Nishes_Wishes

Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this article referred to Lawrence Robinson as a Phoenix city councilman. He ran for city council in 2013 but didn't win the election.

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