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January 21, 2003
Cleanup brightens streets & boosts pride

by Ruth Bashinsky
It has been almost a month since the popular Doe Fund community cleaning project hit the streets of Woodside, and people there say it has made a big difference.

"This is a real victory, because when there is less litter on the streets and the sidewalks are swept, it inspires confidence and pride in the neighborhood," said Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), who brought the program to Woodside and calls it the first step in the revitalization of the Roosevelt Ave. and Queens Blvd. commercial strips.

The Doe Fund, a nonprofit organization started by George McDonald in 1985, employs homeless former felons and drug addicts, helping them become productive citizens by giving them job training, social support services and paid employment experience.

The street cleaning initiative, also called the community improvement project, is part of the Doe Fund's Ready, Willing & Able program, in which participants sweep, empty trash bins and clean up graffiti on the streets as they earn an hourly wage.

The cleanup in Woodside is concentrated along Roosevelt Ave. and Queens Blvd. between 46th and 61st Sts. Jonathan Carter, who joined the Doe Fund three months ago after serving almost nine years in prison for grand larceny and robbery, said he enjoys being part of the four-man team.

"Some people might feel a certain way about picking up garbage and someone's trash, thinking it's beneath them," said Carter, 37. "But for me, it keeps me out of trouble and on the straight and narrow."

Also in Forest Hills, Flushing

The Doe Fund community improvement project is also operating in Forest Hills and Main St. in Flushing. Doe Fund workers also clean parts of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Jersey City and Philadelphia.

Many Woodside shopkeepers already have noticed an improvement.

"The program is a world of difference. I am looking out the window right now, and there is not one piece of paper outside of my store, which is hard to believe," said Jerry Ottomanelli of S. Ottomanelli, whose family-run meat market has been at 61-05 Woodside Ave. for 45 years. "I would go out with the broom constantly. It was horrible. Bottles, cans, newspapers flying about."

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