The History of Pitch-In Brooklin
Pitch-In Brooklin was “born” in spring of 2002. After moving to Brooklin during the winter of 2001, Shawn and Monica Williamson were surprised to see the amount of garbage blowing around Carson Park that backs onto their house. Most of it came from nearby ongoing construction as well as careless people walking through the park. So one warm spring day Shawn and Monica grabbed some bags and picked up most of the garbage in the park. As they did so, one of their neighbours walking by commented “How nice” and that everybody should help clean up the parks. This was the first “unofficial” but soon-to-become-annual Pitch-In Brooklin
In spring of 2003 Shawn saw an ad in the local paper promoting Pitch-In Canada. The ad encouraged people to organize a clean up of their local Park so Shawn called in about it and with Monica’s help, and some support from local merchants, ran the first “official” park cleanup on April 26, 2003 in Carson Park. That day approximately 20-30 people came out and pitched-in and the park was completely clean.
In spring of 2004 Shawn wondered how much more work it would be to clean up all of the parks in Brooklin. Well as it turned out quite a bit more but still worth the effort. That year they gathered a core group of Park Captains that were each responsible for running the clean up at their own park. They also got local businesses to sponsor the event, partnered with Durham Sustain Ability, the Town of Whitby and created the first road signs to promote the event. And on a dreadfully damp, wet and windy April 24, 2004 they held the first “Brooklin-wide” Pitch-In Brooklin with upwards of 200 people showing up in the rain to help clean up all 9 town parks
2005 and 2006 were much the same — good support from the community and lots of people showing up to Pitch In but awful weather. Following 2006, Shawn decided it was time to appease the weather Gods and pass the torch and focus on other work so he approached his best Park Captains to take over Pitch-in Brooklin. It was then that Lynn and Derek Alexopolous took over the operations of Pitch-in Brooklin. From 2007 through 2009 Lynn and Derek ran and grew the program and did so under glorious blue skies in each of the 3 years. They brought in new Sponsors, added new parks and new Park Captains and brought a lot of youthful enthusiasm through their connection with the local scouting movement resulting in upwards of 400-500+ people showing up for each Pitch-in Brooklin event.
In 2008 Shawn Williamson started a new “off-shoot” of Pitch-In Brooklin with the Africycle Used bicycle collection. At the same time as Pitch-In Brooklin, local residents were asked to donate their used bicycles to a local group called Africycle. The bikes were then shipped to Africa to be used as a tool to help break the cycle of poverty in Malawi. They ran the collection again in Fall 2008 and again in spring of 2009. In 2010 it expanded to 6 different collection sites (including Whitby, Pickering and Oshawa) and to date have collected more than 480 used bicycles as well as thousands of dollars in donations. 2009 also began the Journey of the Blue Bike to show supporters the impact their donations were having with real people in real communities in Malawi
In 2010 following a highly successful 3 year Tour of Duty for Lynn and Derek Alexopolous as Managers of Pitch-in Brooklin, they passed the torch to a group that Shawn had secured - the local Brooklin Ashburn Myrtle (BAM) Lion’s Club with leaders Mike and Deanna Argue taking over the operation of Pitch-In Brooklin. The number of parks had now grown to 13 including Macedonian Village. The 2010 (8th Annual) Pitch-in Brooklin also ran under beautiful blue skies and kept up the same level of turn-out seen in previous years. Pitch-in Brooklin has truly become a fixture on the local calendar that now includes local schools pitching in cleaning up their schoolyards and surrounding areas in days leading up to Pitch-in Brooklin.
Also in 2010 Shawn Williamson lead a further off-shoot of Pitch-in Brooklin. Working with support from the local Rotary Club of Whitby Sunrise, the Planet Earth Initiative and MTC and the use of St. Leo’s Catholic Church’s parking lot, they collected 4326 lbs of e-waste (7 skids). From this they separated out a number of operational computers and cellphones that were sent to local re-use programs to prolong their useful life.
From its earliest beginning as a discussion over breakfast about what should be done to clean up a park, Pitch-in Brooklin has grown to involve 1,000s of people all working together to clean up their community and promote sustainable lifestyles. All of the programs have kept tons of waste out of landfills and have benefitted people as far away as Africa. The cost to the local citizens for all its years of operation has been $0 — in fact they have run a budget surplus for 8 consecutive years. The success of Pitch-in Brooklin is due largely to the support of all volunteers, Captains and Sponsors. But at the heart the “modular design” of the program allows for it to be applied just as easily to 1 park as to a whole Town and now also branches out into other areas. At present, we are only limited by our imagination as to what to do next.
We look forward to many successful events in the years to come as Pitch-in Brooklin continues to grow and evolve and foster new commitments to sustainable living.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed it is the only thing that ever has!"
– Margaret Mead