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Cleaning up Wooster

The youngest trash collector, Rowan Pope, displays her haul from the north end of Wooster.


“It’s turned into an amazing trash clean-up project,” Brian Polen said, referring to the casual bet he made with Emily Mariola that he could collect more trash than she could. Their enthusiasm has taken hold, and an unplanned project to clean up the trash in Wooster is off and running.

Brian Polen is co-owner of Vertical Runner in Wooster with his wife Tammy Polen. Less than a block down the street from Vertical Runner, Mariola is the owner of Flex Yoga.

“We noticed the abundance of trash in our area and thought we might be able to garner some enthusiasm for a voluntary cleanup. Between the two businesses we picked up more than 50 bags of trash in one weekend,” Mariola said.

It all started as Mariola was literally running in to work. She was early and decided to stop by Vertical Runner. “I was telling Tammy about the trash I saw as I ran ... every step I took. There were a few other runners in the store, and everyone said we should pick it up ... So I said I’d call Brian.”

“From my perspective,” Brian Polen said, “it was perfect timing. I run a lot ... and there is trash all over the streets and throughout the countryside. The week before Emily came to me with the idea, a group of my friends and I were running up Henry Street, and I said, ‘One of these days I want to pick up all of this trash.’”

The next weekend both businesses assembled their teams. “My wife called the city and alerted them to what we were doing. We asked them about a drop-off point, and they gave us five or six locations. They were very supportive. We’re lucky to have a great city behind this clean-up effort.”

The idea behind a community effort such as the spontaneous trash cleanup is indicative of the community-oriented goals behind both Vertical Runner and Flex Yoga. “Our focus is cultivating community and friendship and opportunities for people to push each other ... To us that’s what it’s all about,” Brian Polen said.

“We are more than our businesses,” Mariola said. “We have an investment in the community and working together ... Part of the idea behind Flex was that we would build space and a community for people to meet, connect and offer support.”

“We all see trash,” Brian Polen said, “and if you can just share a little bit of time, we can make a pretty impactful difference ... One runner said he picked up three bags of trash in 20 minutes. Who doesn’t have 20 minutes? You don’t need equipment (just trash bags and gloves). You don’t need skills or talent. You just walk down your local neighborhood street, and it’s amazing what you’ll do.”

“An interesting thing that is happening since our initial trash pickup,” Mariola said, “is that people and groups are just going out on their own.”

The weekend after the event the Wooster High School girls lacrosse team went out and picked up multiple bags of trash at the high school. Many other individuals and groups have done the same thing in various parts of town.

The next official Vertical Runner/Flex Yoga trash pick-up event will begin on Saturday, April 22 (Earth Day) and run through April 30. Businesses and groups are invited to join in the clean-up effort. Email Mariola at moorefieldmariola@gmail.com.

Published: March 16, 2017
New Article ID: 2017703169983