Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami

     Community Resident
Roberto Valdivia

Hopefully you know about Councilman Huizar’s Bulky Item Drop Off Program , held in El Sereno on the second Saturday, monthly from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. This program is specifically designed for residents to drop off their unwanted bulky items. This month’s profile features a local resident who took the incentive to expound on Huizar’s program, Roberto Valdivia.
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bulky item sundays
join us on these dates
03/12/11  04/09/11
05/14/11  06/11/11
07/09/11  08/13/11
I met Roberto at Xokolatl Cafe to interview him for this month’s profile. Soft spoken and unassuming, he approached me after I had mistaken him for some other gentleman. Roberto claimed he was shy, but his ideas for beautifying our neighborhood show someone with great insight.

RV : I grew up here and attended All Saints, Multnomah and Cathedral High School. I earned an Eagle Scout Award and graduated from Loyola Marymount University, with a degree in art (graphic design). I primarily work as a Senior Interactive Designer for Dailey, an advertising agency in West Hollywood.

So you really are a local product?
RV: Yes, but it didn’t feel permanent until I returned, married. My wife already owned a home here, so I’m back in Hillside Village, about a block away from the house where I grew up.

So, tell me about your project.
RV : Well, Councilman Huizar started the ball rolling with bins he has all over the district, the "Bulky Item Drop Off Program”.

My wife and I were driving around, and I said, "You know, if I had a truck, I’d come and pick up this stuff ”, I mean the city comes, but sometimes it seems like nobody calls 3-1-1, so I asked some people, "Can I borrow your truck?” And nobody wants to lend their truck to move stuff, because you’d scratch it up, so I got a group from Hillside Village, part of the property owners association (HVPOA), and I made the announcement.

I also mentioned this to Julio (Our Town El Sereno), "You have a truck, let’s get together and let’s do this.” And he’s like, "Ok.” I thought he was going to pass, because when it comes down to it, nobody shows up. But he did call and asked, "Are you ready?” and I said, "You’re serious?! We’ll do it!” So he and I went out, along with HVOPA members.

Eventually I bought a truck, so now we have four or five trucks. Last month we had a new person from the HVPOA. He has one of those big, "Dooley” trucks you can put 3 or 4 couches in there. Everyone meets about 8am, and spends about an hour to two, driving around. We go up north and south of Huntington Drive, and the border of El Sereno by Fremont and Valley. We get a lot of items in this area (north Huntington Drive), hardly any in Hillside Village. I notice (most) of the debris is in the alleys, they (may) take it off the street, but it’s in the alleys.

I’m not sure people know to call 3-1-1, or think someone else is going to handle it, maybe that’s what it is. When I first started, my wife said, "Well you know what’s going happen, people are just going to leave their stuff out because they know someone’s going to come and pick it up.” But (I feel) if no one does it, it’s not going to get done. There’s a quote I believe in that goes like this, "If you want and believe that change is needed, sometimes you just have to go out and do it yourself.”

Another thing I was trying to do with my neighbors, is broaden their vision and responsibility. Unfortunately many don’t see past their front gates and I’m trying to get them to acknowledge that whatever happens beyond their gates, across the neighborhood, it’s going to come into yours. You can invite friends over, and hang out at your home, but once they see all this debris, it doesn’t reflect positively on your neighborhood. You have to take care of your neighbor as well as yourself.

I like the way you think. So how long have you been doing this?
RV: It’s been about 4 months, we started in September 2010, the second weekend of the month. Thanks to Huizar’s program, they provide the dumpsters, without that, I don’t know if I’d be able to do this. Whether he wins the election, or Rudy Martinez does, I really hope they continue the program.

Did you have any idea the plan would grow this well?
RV: No, and it’s been great, I know I’ve personally taken my trash to a dumpster, and its’ way too expensive, there’s no way I can afford to pick up trash and deliver it to a dumpster.

What is your goal for the program?
RV: I’d love to have more drivers and someone to pick up the items. I’m the only one who’s not driving , my father drives, and I jump out and I grab trash. When help is needed, the other guys will park their cars and move stuff. But if we had other people in passenger seats, it’d be quicker. There wouldn’t be a traffic issue. We’ve had people yell at us even though we tell them, "We’re trying to pick up your trash here.” We hand out fliers and let them know if they call 3-1-1, you don’t have to wait for us. I’d love to get more people involved.

Some of the older volunteers I thought would just be drivers, but one in particular said, "I’m getting my exercise, I’m helping, I’m doing something.” It was very fulfilling. I’ve asked Huizar’s office to give us two additional bins. When we start, it’s half filled. Unfortunately it’s construction stuff. I’ve asked his office to get someone to not allow construction trucks to dump. Or have another bin only for furnit ure. Our bins are not secured, they’re out in the open, whereas others are behind a gate. I’ve seen contractors’ leave their refuse in the mornings and I had a run-in with them. But I have no control over that situation, all I can say is "Stop doing that please!"

We consistently fill two bins. Once a month is a lot to ask, it’s a commitment from the guys that help. Without the help from Charles, Ray, Leonard, Julio, and my father (Roberto), this couldn’t happen. If there’s too much for us to pick up, we’ll write down the address and call 3-1-1 on Monday. For the most part, we try to pick up as much as we can.

We don’t have a name for our program. And we need to because I think people think we’re scavenging for ourselves. So we need to identify ourselves as volunteers, trying to clean up the neighborhood. Julio (OTES) and I are talking about that (getting magnetic signage) for the trucks.

But there’s risks involved as well, nails you can step on. It seems like each week we evolve in terms of what we do safety-wise. The first week I went out, I picked up a pane of glass and it broke, shattering everywhere. I said, "Okay, now I have to wear glasses.” I didn’t think about stuff like that, I just go out and do it.

Councilman Huizar’s pick up locations are at: 1) El Sereno Park 4721 Klamath St. (Corners of Ruth Swiggett and Eastern) 2) Rose Hill Park 4530 Mercury Avenue (Corners of Beryl and Mercury Ave). If you would like to join Roberto and would like to make a difference in your community please contact Our Town El Sereno for any updates or show up the second Saturday of each month at El Sereno Park (8am).

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MARCH 2011

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