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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cleanup aids International District

Bill Decker, left, and Richard Miller carry trash away from  a yard at First and Napa during a neighborhood cleanup on Friday. (Dan Pelle)
Bill Decker, left, and Richard Miller carry trash away from a yard at First and Napa during a neighborhood cleanup on Friday. (Dan Pelle)

Volunteers rolled up their sleeves to clean up an emerging Spokane neighborhood on Friday, and at the same time helped celebrate a national service organization dedicated to fighting poverty in American communities.

About 14 AmeriCorps Vista members joined dozens of East Central neighbors and a state Department of Corrections work crew during cleanup day in an area becoming known as the International District.

Side by side, they hauled trash from nearby yards and quickly filled a huge trash container left for the purpose by the city. They swept sidewalks, painted over graffiti and planted flowers.

“This has given me the opportunity to get to know this community,” said Gin Garton, 24, one of 85,000 AmeriCorps members nationwide working each year to improve the lives of disadvantaged Americans.

Garton, a West Virginia University graduate in journalism who was assigned to Spokane, signed up for AmeriCorps as a way to ride out the lousy job market.

Founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 and incorporated as AmeriCorps in 1993, the nonprofit is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year.

Meanwhile, David Perry, of the DOC’s Spokane Community Justice Center, 715 E. Sprague Ave., directed a work crew to help clean junk from a neighbor’s yard. The crew members were serving court-ordered restitution in lieu of jail time for misdemeanor and felony convictions.

The day’s activities were coordinated by Holly Martin, community development coordinator for SNAP, the lead agency for the Spokane Vibrant Communities three-year revitalization project.

The neighborhood, once known simply as East Sprague, is being transformed “into something neighbors can be proud of,” Martin said.

Prostitutes and drug dealers have given ground to immigrant-owned shops and restaurants in the area bordered by Interstate 90 to the south, railroad tracks to the north, Helena Street to the west and Crestline Street to the east.

The once-shunned corridor already has become a destination for Spokane residents hungry for Vietnamese pho, organic cooking or Asian groceries.

At the Bollywood Grocery, owner Monie Sagoo said the neighborhood is becoming safer and much more livable since she and her husband moved their business to 1812 E. Sprague Ave. six years ago.

As an example, Sagoo pointed to a reputable silk-screening business across the street in a building that once housed an adult video store.

At the nearby One World Spokane restaurant, where patrons choose how much they eat and how much they pay, Mark Mayers extolled the attributes of East Sprague.

“It’s becoming a district,” Mayers said.

More importantly, Martin added, “it’s becoming a neighborhood people can take pride in.”

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