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In the foreground, two teen boys with dark hoodies and dark pants walk away from the camera, the one on the left has a trashbag. Ahead of them are more than a dozen other teens walking toward a stop sign on a busy street.

Cleanup brigade makes 23rd Street spiffy for trick-or-treaters

on October 27, 2023

Armed with a trash picker, plastic bag and garden gloves, Ahmaya Maroney, a senior at John F. Kennedy High School, snagged the paper, wrappers, bottles and cans that dirtied the sidewalks and gutters along 23rd Street in Richmond Thursday evening. 

With a corps of about 25 other community members, Maroney picked up litter in preparation of the annual “Trick or Treat on 23rd Street” on Halloween, which is Tuesday. 

 “I think it’s really important to pick up trash around the community because it’ll really pile up if someone doesn’t take care of it,” said Maroney, who was among a group of volunteers with the Job Readiness Program. ”I think it should be a priority to keep things clean, like the place where you live.”

The cleanup will create a safer environment for trick or treaters, and it couldn’t have been done without community support, said Yenny Garcia, an administrative analyst with the Contra Costa Youth Service Bureau, which organized the effort.

Closeup of three sets of lets and and right arms extended m using trash pickers to grab litter from under a red wrought iron fence.

“Richmond is always in a negative light, but there’s so many good things that happen here,” Garcia said.

The mostly youth-led cleanup began in 2016, the first year of “Trick or Treat on 23rd Street.” The Halloween event was postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, but returned last year. With about 90% of merchants in the corridor participating, according to the Youth Service Bureau, the event creates a sense of pride and place. 

The 23rd St. Merchants Association began the trick or treat event to help generate traffic for businesses. While businesses did not immediately embrace the idea, the event has continued to grow. Merchants dress up, play music and decorate their business to make it fun for the kids who attend.

Sergio Rios, who owns Bob’s Cleaners, has participated in the event since it started and will be there again on Tuesday. He said it creates a safe place for kids to enjoy Halloween and also promotes what 23rd Street has to offer. 

“Sometimes people are just walking by and they don’t know there was a dry cleaner in this street. So it helps the businesses. They didn’t know there was a hair salon just next door or a bakery next door,” he said.

Volunteers covered 12 blocks Thursday. Separating into two groups, they spent an hour picking up trash, with each group cleaning a different side of the street, then switching to the opposite side. About five bags of trash were filled, along with two cardboard boxes with glass and other hazardous debris. 

Photo of the cleanup crew for 23rd Street, all volunteers, mostly teens. There are three rows of people, seven kneeling in the first row with trash pickers and a broom; eight standing in the second; and 12 in the last row.
Young people led the cleanup of the 23rd Street corridor ahead of Halloween (Photos by Amaray Alvarez)

Other organizations volunteering were the Richmond Youth Academy, which had about 10 cadets and students with the EMT program. Cleaning supplies were donated by the city and the office of Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, which also provided snacks and pizza. 

“We’re here to make sure the community is safe and clean for little kids and everybody else,” said Havana Jackson, a Richmond Youth Academy volunteer and a senior at Invictus Academy of Richmond.

Trick or Treat on 23rd Street will take place on from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, on 23rd Street, from Barrett Avenue to Rheem Avenue. Other activities will include face painting, music and a costume contest. The Halloween Hub will be at Rigo’s Auto Sales, where a Dia De Los Muertos altar will be set up for residents to bring photos of loved ones. Crossing guard volunteers will direct traffic, so children can safely cross the street.

Those who would like to volunteer for the event can sign up online or by contacting Yenny Garcia at

This story was updated to correct the planned activities.

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