By Julie Lawrence Special to Published May 22, 2009 at 2:25 PM

When it's 75 degrees and sunny, it's pretty hard to remember that just about a month ago there were flurries in the forecast. A warm summer-like day evaporates all lingering signs of our snowy past, but sometimes what's left in its wake isn't as lovely.

Milwaukee can look pretty gross after a spring thaw melts away our clean snow cover, revealing a long-forgotten about layer of garbage. Neighborhoods across the city have been busy organizing community cleanups, and now it's Bay View's turn.

A new community group called ThinkTank has taken on this task as the first of many to come. The event is called "Get Trashed" and it's a two-parter. Part One: Anyone interested in helping clean up Bay View meets at the Cactus Club on Thursday, May 28 at 7 p.m. for an informational meeting and discussion (bring $5 for a locally-made volunteer T-shirt).

Part Two: the actual clean up, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, May 30-31 at 2 p.m. at Beulah Brinton Playfield, 2555 S. Bay St. Drinks and snacks at Blackbird to follow.

ThinkTank was started this spring by Milwaukeeans Jordan Burich and TJay Christenson as a means to foster a tighter-knit sense of community and motivate people to volunteer in their area.

But the group is more than an easy reminder to keep Milwaukee lovely; it is, as its slogan states, dedicated to "Empowering our community through volunteerism, education, and civic responsibility."

"'Get Trashed' is a way for us to say 'Hello,'" says Burich. "In reality, I think it can go deeper than that; I think it can give us all a renewed sense of ownership. If we don't care about our neighborhood, who will?"

Soon, Burich and Christenson plant to combine community involvement with politics by organizing monthly or bi-monthly question and answer sessions featuring local/state/national public figures and elected officials.

"We think that the way most of us view our elected leaders needs to fundamentally change. The founders of this country saw themselves as servants of the people, but these days it all seems a bit backward. It's important to remember how to use our voices, it's important to know what's going on in City Hall, and it's important that our representatives know that we're watching, and caring."

Education and a broader understanding of how political systems on all levels work is central to the group's mission, and both founders are passionate about teaching young people the importance of their voice.

"In the future, we want ThinkTank to partner up with some local high schools and universities to promote an emphasis on political thought and civic responsibility," says Burich. "We've also been talking about a program that would give inner city youth a chance to go to summer camp. Our community is our greatest resource, so get in the Tank!"


Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”