The Big Clean: Euclid, Collinwood residents stage friendly cleanup competition

Spring is here and it’s that time of year when people start cleaning up what winter has left in its wake, or what we left around our yards before the chill set it.

But the effort to do outdoor spring cleaning has become serious competition in Collinwood and Euclid—where since 2017 the two cities stage The Big Clean for one weekend in April. This Saturday, April 24, it’s Euclid versus Collinwood once again, to see which city can pick up the most trash and debris.

Collinwood couple Allison Lukacsy-Love, director of Euclid’s planning and development department, and Stephen Love, program manager for environmental initiatives at the Cleveland Foundation, help organize the yearly event.

Lukacsy-Love is co-chair of Keep Euclid Beautiful and a co-chair of the Big Clean in Euclid. “I got involved through Stephen's initiatives in Collinwood and when I began working for the City of Euclid and helped establish Keep Euclid Beautiful, we developed the idea of a fun competition between the two communities to maximize our impact,” she says. 

While the Collinwood-Euclid competition dates back four years, Love says he’s been spring cleaning for a decade. “My involvement in cleaning up Euclid goes back 10 years to Euclid Beach Park,” he boasts. “My grandmother lived in the area and we visited Wildwood Park and Euclid Beach. In college I got involved with Adopt-A-Beach and organized monthly beach cleanups.”

With cleanup efforts happening simultaneously in both Euclid and Collinwood, organizers realized the potential for a fun event. “These two opportunities came together in 2017 and we saw we could rally together to have fun,” Love says. “And then it became a competition.”

The idea worked. Lukacsy-Love says between 200 and 300 people sign up each year, and the event continues to grow.

“One act of kindness often spurs others,” she says.

But Love says it’s spurred more than just kindness. “It becomes not just about picking up trash—it becomes about a sense of pride and picking up trash and coming together as a community.”

While the Big Clean was cancelled last year because of the pandemic, Lukacy-Love says they are eager to restart the event this year. She says some things will still be different—all COVID-19 protocols will be in place—and there will be no after party.

But, there will still be raffles, gifts, and prizes,

Participants will also receive T-shirts, yellow vests, and Earth Day gift bags with coupons for local businesses.

Participants are encouraged to take selfies with their trash bags and post the number of bags they filled on social media , as well as the city they worked in (Euclid or Collinwood), and use the hashtag #thebigclean. Cleanup organizers will use the posts to tally total trash bags.

Lukacsy-Love says the pressure is on this year. Euclid has won the competition ever year since 2017, with Collinwood coming up only 20 bags short in 2019 (she argues that Euclid has a larger footprint than Collinwood). “But it's about collaboration,” she says. “It’s been a tough time and we’re happy to have an event that brings people together in any way.”

On Saturday, April 24 between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., there will be a drive-thru for cleanup supply kits (gloves, bags, pickers and other goodies from community partners) at Villa Angela St. Joseph High School’s rear parking lot, 18491 Lakeshore Blvd., at Five Pointe Community Center, 813 E. 153rd St., or at Simon's Supermarket, 25831 Euclid Ave.  Stay in your car and receive the kits from our team at this curbside pick-up location.

Participants have until Sunday, April 25 to pick up trash and debris and still be counted in the competition, Love says.

While the Big Clean is a competition, no matter who wins, this event is about bringing neighbors together to build community in support of cleaner streets, a cleaner Lake Erie, and a cleaner Planet for us all.” he says.

Check the Big Clean Facebook page for updates. Register to participate for either Collinwood or Euclid here.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.