Journalist at the University of Tennessee and the work I've done

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Update on Clean Up Day!

Clean up day on Sunday, November 9th was a success!

We collected about 14 bags of trash in two hours.

A big thank you to those who came out: Sammie Herold, Justin Matthews, and Madison Roberts!

Also, none of this would have been possible without the supplies generously donated to us by Keep Knoxville Beautiful.

Thank you all for making my Community Action Project come to life. Next clean up will take place on Sunday, December 14th!


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I’ve lived in the Fort Sanders neighborhood for about two and a half years now. What started out as a convenient place to live turned into an undying passion for my home. Over the past two years I’ve recognized several aspects about the Fort that need improving.

The most obvious problem is the piles of trash that accumulate on lawns, sidewalks, and gutters. That aspect alone seems to depreciate the standard of living in the neighborhood. Since there is already old beer bottles lying on the ground, it isn’t a problem to throw yours down, right? Thus the cycle continues. Trash breeds more trash. Apathy breeds more apathy.

I want to change this.

Part of the Leadership Knoxville Scholars curriculum is a Community Action Project (CAP). Essentially, every scholar must come up with a plan to positively impact the community in some way. The possibilities of CAP’s are endless. My friend, Ryan Brown, created the Food Recovery Network as his CAP. He collects food from various events, such as UT Football games, that would have been thrown out. Then he relocates it to someone in need. It isn’t just Ryan, either, it’s a whole organization. Another friend and fellow scholar, Blake Roller, will hold a history fair for elementary students in Knoxville. He wants to teach them about the rich history of Knoxville, and he’s a total expert on it.

My passion for the Fort is the fuel to my CAP. Organizing a trash clean up has been a goal of mine for over a year now. But between two jobs, school, and life I haven’t had much energy to pour into a brand new project.

Finally I’ve teamed up with the Fort Sanders Neighborhood Association to get my CAP started. Sunday, October 26th the Association hosted a Fort Sanders Homecoming event with chili and music. About 30 people from the community met up at James Agee Park. While enjoying free food, we looked over plans to install several trash receptacles on various corners in the neighborhood. Overall, it was a good time and the Mayor even showed up.

Personally, I would love to have more of these events. The Association and I have talked about a couple different ideas. There will definitely be some community get-togethers in the future.

However, right now, I’d really love to tackle the most obvious problem. This Sunday, November 9th from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. we’re hosting a trash clean up! We’ll tackle the areas between James Agee and 11th street. Anyone is welcome to come out, and feel free to sign up if you’d like to! We’re getting trash bags and gloves from Keep Knoxville Beautiful.

I don’t just want to make the Fort a cleaner place. I want people to invest in the community like I want to. I want students and members of the community to work together. I want a community! Sure, it won’t be easy to change the mindset that people have toward the Fort. But one day, everyone will see it as I do. It is a significant, beautiful, historical gem. And it deserves to be treated that way.

Our next clean up will be on Sunday, December 14th from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.

Email me if you have an questions, ideas, or concerns! rblake5@vols.utk.edu