Best Concept to Boost Civic Pride

St. Louis Litteracy Project

When we saw him in April during the opening of the Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, Galen Gondolfi was hunched in a small cage, wearing a thrift-store suit and begging for biscuits. The performance artist was a bad dog that evening; he spilled his water. Now he's making up for his misbehavior, having morphed into "Galen Garbage," a roving goodwill ambassador with a pushcart and a broom. Gondolfi has vowed to pick up trash 40 hours a week for one year, traversing the entire city block by block. The St. Louis Litteracy Project kickoff was June 1 at Cherokee Street and Compton Avenue. With volunteers in tow, Gondolfi spent the day spreading the gospel of clean neighborhoods and touting the virtues of home ownership. Galen Garbage is sponsored by the nonprofit Justine Petersen Housing Corp., which encourages first-time home ownership in St. Louis. Part of his mission while out pushing broom is encouraging people to get a free credit report, the first step to achieving a clean credit score. Already some folks along the route have stopped paying the landlord and started building equity with places of their own.

"This is real-life urban revitalization," says Gondolfi. "It's more tangible than some planning document sitting down at City Hall. By the end of the day, you've got a clean street or vacant lot."

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