A dozen volunteers picked up trash and planted boxwood on a Wyandanch street Sunday, adding splashes of colors to beautify the stretch of road on Straight Path along with orange signs that said "end gun violence."
“If you come in through Dix Hills and once you get across the tracks, you hit Wyandanch. Wyandanch is beautiful. But you don't see it. … It's a little dreary,” business owner Renita Certain said. “We're hoping to change the narrative of the neighborhood.”
Certain’s boutique Spin The Yard, which also functions as a nonprofit community resource center, received a $10,000 grant for beautification work. The Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design grant came from Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun violence prevention group.
“The idea is to make this area look cared for, and in doing so, hopefully it will help prevent crime,” said Jana Gale, a colead for Moms Demand Action on Long Island, who organized the cleanup with Certain.
Sunday’s event was the first step of a monthslong beautification project funded by the grant. Organizers said they are planning a mural on a building across the street from Certain’s store and to create a memorial site for those lost to gun violence.
Like other volunteers, Indiana Bumpers came in an orange shirt — in honor of her son, Malik Stoddart.
“Everything I do is for him,” said Bumpers, who created Malik's Path after Stoddart, 18, was shot to death in September of 2016 on Irving Avenue, just around the corner from the site of the cleanup Sunday.
The color orange was worn by the friends of Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed on a Chicago playground in 2013. Wear Orange became a nationwide, three-day campaign beginning on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, which was Friday, and ending Sunday.
Bumpers said her son was a track star who was preparing to start at Monroe College in New Rochelle.
“He loved Wyandanch. He was planning on going to school and coming back,” Bumpers said. “We want to give back to the community. Of course, he never had a chance to do it. So I have to do it.”
Sunday’s cleanup also came in the wake of the massacres last month in Buffalo, where 10 people were killed at a supermarket, and Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school.
Authorities on Long Island said police responded to dozens of threats against schools in the past two weeks, prompting heightened security measures and enhanced training protocols.
“We have had a surge of new members join us over the past two to three weeks,” Gale said. “People have stepped up, off the sidelines, is what's happening.”
Bumpers said she got involved in gun violence prevention to spare other families of the pain hers has gone through after her son’s death.
“If I could … save one mother the grief that I'm going through, you know, it wouldn't be in vain,” she said. “What I am doing in the community wouldn’t be in vain.”